Federal prosecutors asked a judge Monday to bar Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from seeing some of the gruesome autopsy photos of the three people killed in the attack.
In a court filing, prosecutors said Tsarnaev should only be allowed to look at autopsy photos that will be used during his trial and sentencing. They said he should not be allowed to see the many other photos that will not be used against him in court.
“Allowing photos of the mutilated bodies of the victims to be viewed by the man accused of mutilating them would needlessly revictimize the family members in the same way that innocent children who are photographed pornographically are revictimized whenever those photos are seen by others,” prosecutors wrote.
Miriam Conrad, one of Tsarnaev’s lawyers, declined to comment on the request.
In their motion, prosecutors say they told the defense that if Tsarnaev were allowed to view all the photographs, the government would continue to make them available for lawyers’ review but would not provide copies. They said Tsarnaev’s lawyers “refused to accept any limitation on Tsarnaev’s ability to view the autopsy photos and repeated their demand for copies of all of them.”
Tsarnaev, 19, has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. More than half the charges carry a possible death sentence.
Prosecutors allege that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, built two pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the finish line of last year’s marathon. Twin explosions killed two women and an 8-year-old boy and injured more than 260.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days after the April 15 marathon.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held in a federal prison as he awaits a trial scheduled to begin in November.
In their motion, prosecutors ask to limit Tsarnaev’s access to autopsy photos of the three bombing victims and MIT police Officer Sean Collier, who prosecutors allege was killed by the Tsarnaev brothers on April 18 as they fled.
Suffolk University Law School professor Christopher Dearborn said he believes it will be difficult to persuade a judge to restrict Tsarnaev’s access to the autopsy photos, especially because he could be sentenced to death.
“The problem here is if there’s any possibility that there’s something in those photos that could be helpful or potentially helpful to him in a trial or in sentencing, he has to be allowed access to them,” Dearborn said.
“What they are really trying to do is make a strong statement on behalf of the victims’ families, and they have a right to do that. I just don’t think that right can trump the constitutional rights of the defendant.”