Jury selection is scheduled to begin this morning for one of the three Boston Marathon bombing suspects friends charged with obstructing an investigation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the brothers accused of detonating a deadly bomb at the Boston Marathon in 2013, reportedly had three friends at his University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth dorm dispose of critical evidence in the case including a laptop computer.
The three friends who disposed of the computer just three days after the bombing, are now charged individually with obstruction of an investigation. Azamat Tazhayakov, a 20-year-old student, is the first of Tsarnaev’s friends to be charged and jury selection began today, June 30, 2014.
According to Reuters, the suspected Boston bomber contacted his three friends on April 15, 2013, and asked them to remove a laptop computer and backpack containing empty fireworks shells. The three are accused of doing just that and, in the process, obstructing the bombing investigation. Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Matthew Myers, told reporters last week that his client had rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors, stating that there was a “lack of evidence” to convict the man.
WKZO reports, one of the key issues in the trial will stem from the questioning of Tazhayakov by federal agents. After the bombings, police stormed the friend’s New Bedford, Massachusetts, apartment. The agents storming the apartment were heavily armed and escorted Tazhayokov and another accused friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, to the police department for questioning. The issue comes in that the pair did not have attorney’s present and told their lawyers that they never felt that they were “free to leave” during the questioning.
Following questioning, the pair were arrested for immigration violations, not bombing related activities or obstruction of the Boston bombing case.
The charges against the three schoolmates of Tsarnaev are as follows: Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both charged with obstruction of justice, could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. A third friend, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, faces up to 16 years if convicted of the less serious charge of lying to investigators.
The U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock has been very clear on his stance in the case and has said he will declare a mistrial if he finds that the suspects testimonies were not voluntary.
These men have not been charged in the Boston bombing itself and prosecutors do not believe they had a direct role in the bombing. Rather the two dorm mates simply obstructed justice by disposing of the computer and other items in Tsaarnaev’s backpack. Prosecutors feel strongly that Tsarnaev his brother, Tamerlan are responsible for placing and detonating the two homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon’s crowded finish line and just three days later fatally shooting a university police officer while attempting to flee the city.
As for the charges against the brothers, Tamerlan died after a gunbattle with police later in the night following the shooting of the university officer. Dzhokhar is currently awaiting trial on charges that have the potential of a sentence of execution if he is convicted.
In total, three people were killed, including a child, and 264 were injured in the horrific Boston Marathon bombing.