Federal prosecutors intend to enter autopsy photos of the three Boston Marathon victims into evidence, but they want bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to see only the pictures that will be used in his trial.
On Monday, prosecutors asked a federal judge in Boston to grant a protective order that would bar Tsarnaev, 20, from looking at any autopsy photos of bombing victims Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu unless the images are entered into the court record.
Tsarnaev is eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted in the April 15 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260. He has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Tsarnaev’s defense attorneys are allowed to see any of the autopsy photos, prosecutors said in a filing. They just didn’t think Tsarnaev himself should.
“Granting Tsarnaev an unlimited right to view the naked and mutilated corpses of the victims would needlessly invade the victims’ privacy and expose their families to unnecessary anguish,” the motion filed Monday said. “Just as each new viewing of a defamatory statement, or of an image of a naked child in pain or torment, causes new injury ... each unnecessary viewing of the autopsy photos is an avoidable harm.”
As precedent, prosecutors cited cases in which state secrets and child pornography had been withheld from defendants when the materials were not expected to be used against the defendants in trial.
Defense attorneys had objected to Tsarnaev’s having less-than-unfettered access to the complete set of autopsy photos in February, which prosecutors decided Tsarnaev’s attorneys would view only by visiting the U.S. attorney’s office.
“The autopsy photos are extremely graphic. They show the victims, who are all badly mutilated, in various states of undress, including completely naked,” prosecutors said in their motion. “Although the photos, which are a standard part of all autopsies, are necessary, allowing Tsarnaev the unrestricted right to review all of them is completely unnecessary. He does not need to review photos that will not be used against him in order to prepare his case or exercise any of his constitutional rights.”
Tsarnaev and his attorneys are already under a protective order in the case that bars them from releasing evidence. An hearing was scheduled for April 16 to discuss a request by Tsarnaev’s attorneys to loosen the strict rules placed on him in jail, in which officials sit in on all his visits.
A trial date has been set for November.
Tsarnaev’s attorneys are expected to argue that his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, swayed him into carrying out the attack, which was considered the most significant terrorist act on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks in 2001.