Will Svengali Defense Save Tsarnaev From Execution For Marathon Bombing?


In the peculiar legal case of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the real defense will begin only after he’s been found guilty, says the Christian Science Monitor. His attorneys have conceded he committed the bombings and attacks that resulted in four deaths and more than 260 injuries. Federal law splits capital death penalty cases into two phases: the first determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant, the second determining their sentence. Assuming that the jury now deliberating finds Tsarnaev guilty, the same group will then hear arguments from both sides over whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison with a death sentence requiring unanimous agreement from the jury.

Jurors will be hearing much more about Tsarnaev himself as they contemplate whether to sentence him to death. The defense team is expected to lay out a “Svengali” defense for their client, a strategy named after a character in a 19th century novel and meaning, in a legal context, the defense of a criminal who was “a pawn of a more influential mastermind.” In this case the “mastermind” is being framed as Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan.

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