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Public Defender Assigned To Represent Bombing Suspect


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


I'm Steve Inskeep. The living suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing case remains in a hospital bed. But his case is now before the federal courts, after a magistrate came to the hospital; and he was charged. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. And we're learning more details of what videotape showed Tsarnaev and his brother doing, in the moments before the bombings. NPR's Tovia Smith brings us up to date.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Tsarnaev is still in serious condition, but the judge who came to his hospital bed to read the charges against him, noted yesterday that he was alert, mentally competent and lucid. The 19-year-old answered with nods - and once, a no, when asked if he could afford his own attorney. He was read his Miranda rights. He was told he could face the death penalty, and a public defender was assigned to represent him. His lawyers later requested another defense attorney be brought on board - with expertise in the death penalty.

NANCY GERTNER: If you want to staff up the case, to be able to affect the decision-making as to whether there's a death penalty.

SMITH: Former federal judge Nancy Gertner says Tsarnaev will be well-represented. His public defender used to be her law clerk, though Gertner says a case like this can be tricky.

GERTNER: If the defendant wants a show trial, wants to do something dramatic - that can always happen - that's a very difficult situation, for a lawyer.

SMITH: Law-enforcement officials tell NPR that so far, they believe Tsarnaev and his brother were motivated by their religious views but were not tied to any Islamist terrorist groups. In court papers, prosecutors offered chilling details of the moments before last week's blasts. They say video shows Tsarnaev slipping his backpack onto the ground and standing there, looking at - and perhaps doing something on - his phone. They say he was totally calm after the first explosion, and walked away just about 10 seconds before the second blast that happened right where he dropped his backpack. Prosecutors also detail a carjacking, and testimony from the car's owner that Tsarnaev bragged that he was the marathon bomber.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Based on the physical evidence they now have, it seems like a pretty open-and-shut case.

SMITH: Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz says Tsarnaev's defense is likely to go one of two ways.

DERSHOWITZ: Either make a deal to save his life, to trade information for the end of the death penalty; or he will want to put on a jihadist-type defense - I did it, I'm proud of it, I would do it again; I want you to kill me, I want to go to paradise - that kind of thing.


SMITH: Meantime, around Boston yesterday, a funeral and memorial for two of the bombing victims who were spectators at the marathon. Hundreds of mourners paid respects to 29-year-old Krystal Campbell, who was remembered for her smile; her big, blue eyes; and her friendship. And last night, the parents of Boston University grad student Lu Lingzi flew in from China, to remember her.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking foreign language)

SMITH: Lu was remembered as sweet and ambitious. She loved her green-tea ice cream, her dog and her piano. Jing Li was her roommate.

JING LI: We - will keep running, to finish the race for you. And we will try to realize your unfinished dreams.

SMITH: Friends wept at Lu's life lost, and their lives that may never be the same.

ANYA GIA: What happened really hurt us a lot. It was like, we were so scared. I was kind of like, crying for a week.

SMITH: Classmate Anya Gia said the service helped her move on, as did the news yesterday that federal investigators were finally taking down the barriers around the crime scene in Boston.

GIA: I think it's kind of like a sign for the Boston. It's like - represents all the people can move forward from this tragedy.

SMITH: Yesterday marked exactly one week since the first bomb exploded. At 2:50 - (pauses) - the city stood still, last week's deafening blast and cries of pain replaced by a stunning silence and tears of sadness.

City officials say it will take a few more days to make sure the streets and stores are safe and cleaned up, and the heart of the city can return to some sort of normal.

Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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