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    • Brief

    United States v. Tsarnaev

    Brief of American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Inc., National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Rutherford Institute as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent.


    Argument: NACDL’s amicus brief argues that in the sentencing phase of his capital trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sought to introduce evidence in mitigation that his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev had previously enlisted an accomplice to commit a brutal triple murder and robbery on the ten-year anniversary of September 11, 2001. Tamerlan bound, beat, and slit the throats of three men (one a childhood friend) in the name of jihad.  This evidence supported Dzhokhar’s core mitigation theory that his older brother was a violent jihadist who influenced him to participate in the Boston Marathon bombings and was more culpable for those crimes. But the district court excluded it. Tamerlan’s previous jihadist murders and recruitment of an accomplice are powerful pieces of mitigation evidence, and 18 U.S.C. § 3593(c) provides no basis to exclude them. “Waste of time” is not a basis for exclusion under Section 3593(c). The proposed mitigation evidence created no danger of “confusing the issues.” Section 3595(a)’s harmless error standard is demanding, and the Government fails to meet it here. The Government fails to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury was just as likely to disbelieve Dzhokar’s core mitigation theory if it had seen the Waltham evidence.  The Government also fails to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury would have sentenced Dzhokhar to death even if it believed Dzhokhar acted under Tamerlan’s influence.