There’s been quite a bit of legal and courthouse news this week, so I’m going to focus on that today.
Yesterday was a big day at the Boston Federal Courthouse as the Whitey Bulger trial was briefly eclipsed by the first court appearance of Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. From The Boston Globe:
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shuffled into the courtroom, appearing confident despite the ankle chains and an orange jumpsuit so big on him that it made him appear younger than his 19 years.
As federal prosecutors read the charges against him Wednesday in his first appearance since being captured in April, Tsarnaev repeatedly looked over his shoulder at the packed courtroom, at one point blowing a kiss to his sisters, one sobbing and another holding a baby.
He leaned into the microphone in the hushed courtroom to tell Judge Marianne B. Bowler with an accent that he pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, including use of weapons of mass destruction. More than 30 victims of the Marathon bombings and about a dozen supporters who say they believe Tsarnaev is innocent watched intently as the accused terrorist yawned and stroked the side of his face, which appeared swollen from a wound.
Tsarnaev, who could receive the death penalty, fidgeted in his seat as he listened to the charges, one of his attorneys patting him on the back gently several times. He had a visible scar just below his throat and had a cast on his left arm.
ABC News talked to survivors of the April 15 bombings who showed up to watch Tsarnaev’s court appearance.
Friends and family members of people whose lives were shattered when two homemade bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 packed three rooms in a federal courthouse on Wednesday as suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment.
But the fleeting courtroom encounter brought little relief to Bostonians who said the 19-year-old —accused of conducting the deadly bombings with the help of his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev —showed little feeling.
“He came out and he smirked at the families,” said Ed Fucarile, 64, outside of the John Joseph Moakley federal courthouse along the water in South Boston. “The lawyers put their hands on his shoulders like it was going to be all right.”
Fucarile wore a Boston Strong t-shirt with the name of Marc Fucarile, his son who lost his right leg and still carries shrapnel in his body, the father said.
Marc Fucarile, 34, was standing near the second blast when it went off. He still has more surgeries to go, and has spent every day of the nearly three months since receiving medical care, his father said. Members of the family have taken weeks off work so that someone is always at Marc’s bedside, he said.
Read more survivors’ stories at the link.
At the Whitey Bulger trial, there was a bit of comic relief as Bulger flew into a rage toward the end of testimony and exchanged curses with his former close friend and partner Kevin Weeks. It was reminiscent of a scene from Sopranos.
Bulger’s lawyer, J.W. Carney, tried to portray Weeks as an opportunist who knew how to manipulate the system, someone who cut a deal with prosecutors to serve just five years in prison for aiding and abetting five killings, several of which, Weeks testified, he saw Bulger commit.
“You won against the system,” said Carney.
“What did I win? What did I win,” Weeks said, his voice sounding strained and tired. “Five people are dead.”
Asked whether that bothered him, Weeks shot back, “We killed people that were rats, and I had the two biggest rats right next to me …”
At that, Bulger turned and hissed, “You suck.”
“F— you, OK,” snapped Weeks.
“F— you, too,” shouted Bulger as the jury watched.
“What do you want to do?” said Weeks, his eyes locked on Bulger, who was flushed and staring right back.
At one point Weeks even threatened Carney, asking him if he’d like to step outside.
Weeks grew belligerent and threatening as Carney accused him of lying, challenged his motivation for cooperating, and suggested that Weeks, not Bulger, was a rat.
“You can’t rat on a rat,” said Weeks, adding that he lives in South Boston and walks the streets without being called a rat.
When Carney asked Weeks what he would do if someone did call him a rat, Weeks snapped that if he stepped outside the courthouse he’d show him.
Yesterday the testimony was even more grotesque and sickening, as forensic expert Ann Marie Mires testified about remains of murder victims Arthur Barrett, Deborah Hussey, John McIntyre, and Paul J. McGonagle. I’ll spare you the descriptions; you can go to the links and read more if you’re interested.
This morning Carney asked the judge for a break in the testimony so the defense team could catch up.
The defense team for James “Whitey” Bulger is asking the judge to suspend testimony until next week so they can catch up on evidence.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney filed the motion with the court on Thursday.
“Simply put, the defendant’s counsel have hit a wall, and are unable to proceed further without additional time to prepare for upcoming witnesses,” the motion reads. “Counsel have struggled mightily to be ready for each day of the trial since it began on June 3, 2013, working seven days a week and extraordinarily long hours.” [….]
“A major problem has been the delay in the receipt of discovery from the prosecution,” the motion reads, citing examples of receiving binders of documents pertaining to testimony to be given by witnesses the evening before they take the stand.
Yesterday defense teams rested in both the Bradley Manning and the George Zimmerman trials.
From the Guardian via Raw Story: Bradley Manning defense rests its case after calling just 10 witnesses
Having called just 10 witnesses over the space of three days, the defence phase of the trial was brought to a close far quicker than expected. The defence had indicated in earlier hearings that it intended to call more than 40 witnesses, although many may yet still be presented in court during the post-verdict sentencing stage of the court martial.
By contrast, the prosecution took 14 days to make its case, drawing on 80 witnesses.
On Wednesday, the defence team lead by the civilian lawyer David Coombs, focused its attentions on the most serious charge facing the Army private – that he “aided the enemy” by transmitting information to WikiLeaks knowing that it would be accessible to enemy groups notably al-Qaida. Manning faces a possible sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole under this single charge.
The final defence witness called, the Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, delivered blistering testimony in which he portrayed WikiLeaks as a legitimate web-based journalistic organisation. He also warned the judge presiding in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, that if the “aiding the enemy” charge was interpreted broadly to suggest that handing information to a website that could be read by anyone with access to the internet was the equivalent of handing to the enemy, then that serious criminal accusation could be levelled against all media outlets that published on the web.
Yesterday was quite a theatrical one in the Zimmerman trial, as a mannequin was brought into court and both a prosecutor and defense attorney Mark O’Mara got down on the floor and straddled the dummy in effort to act out what might have happened during an alleged altercation between Zimmerman and his victim Trayvon Martin.
As professional images go, what followed in the courtroom was probably not something for which Mark O’Mara would most like to be remembered.
Hitching up his pant legs and straddling a life-size human mannequin, Zimmerman’s lead defense counsel got down and dirty on the courtroom floor and proceeded to demonstrate for jurors the “ground and pound” move that they have been told Martin exerted on the accused.
Coming a day after he encouraged one of his witnesses, gym owner and mixed martial arts trainer Adam Pollack, to “step down from the stand to give me an example of a mounted position,” prostrating himself on the floor and asking Pollack, “Where do you want me?” the episode made for an awkward role play, leaving court observers snickering and biting their lips in the midst of an otherwise tragic plot.
Earlier in the day, prosecutor John Guy—described by one public observer in the courtroom on the trial’s opening day as “the supermodel of attorneys”—had also hopped on the mannequin for a similar demonstration in front of the all-female jury.
Later Judge Debra Nelson had a “testy exchange” with defense attorney Don West as she asked Zimmerman whether he planned to take the stand. Zimmerman seemed unsure, and West tried to step in.
West repeatedly challenged Nelson’s decision to press Zimmerman for a clear answer. The judge repeatedly slapped him down, her voice gathering volume every time.
“The court is entitled to ask Mr. Zimmerman about his determination as to whether he wants to testify,” Nelson insisted tersely after West objected to her line of questioning.
She looked back at Zimmerman: “How long do you think you need before you make that decision?” she inquired again, as the defendant—who had a minute earlier been made to raise his hand and swear under oath that any decision whether to testify would be his—turned to his counsel for help.
“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.
“I object to the court inquiring of Zimmerman about his intention to testify,” West whimpered for a second time.
“And I have O-VER-RULED” Judge Nelson spat back—several times—as the objections kept coming.
Finally Zimmerman haltingly said he did not want to testify. I think he actually wanted to–if only. What a disaster that would have been for his attorneys! Closing arguments are scheduled to begin this afternoon.
In other news, I can’t resist sharing this article from Time Magazine about what former Russian spies think is probably happening to Edward Snowden in Russia.
In the summer of 1985, KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky was called back to Moscow from the Soviet embassy in London, where he was serving as a resident spy. As a pretext, his commanders told him that he was going to receive an award for his service. But in fact the KGB suspected him of being a double agent — which he was — and they were looking to interrogate him. So upon his arrival, his KGB colleagues, still concealing their suspicions, took him to a comfortable country estate in the suburbs of the Russian capital, much like the one where Gordievsky and other former spies believe Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower, has spent the past few weeks….
The official story coming from the Russian government since then is that Snowden has been holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, waiting for some third country to grant him asylum. But few experts or officials in Moscow still believe that to be true. The accepted wisdom, unofficially acknowledged by most Western and Russian sources, is that Snowden was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.
Experts and former spies who have dealt with the Russian security services are sure that agents would want to get the encryption keys to the data stored on Snowden’s four laptops. The only way to do that would be to get Snowden to give them up.
So Gordievsky believes Snowden would have gotten roughly the same treatment that the KGB spy got back in 1985. “They would have fed him something to loosen his tongue,” Gordievsky says by phone from the U.K., where he has been living in exile for nearly three decades. “Many different kinds of drugs are available, as I experienced for myself.” Having been called back to Moscow, Gordievsky says his KGB comrades drugged him with a substance that “turned out his lights” and made him “start talking in a very animated way.” Although the drug wiped out most of his memory of the incident, the parts he did recollect horrified him the following morning, when he woke up feeling ill. “I realized that I had completely compromised myself,” he says.
One of the substances the KGB used for such purposes at the time was called SP-117, which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, according Alexander Kouzminov, a former Russian intelligence operative who describes the drug’s effectiveness in his book, Biological Espionage. Now living in New Zealand, Kouzminov worked in the 1980s and early 1990s for the Foreign Intelligence Service, the spy agency known as the SVR, which handles undercover agents, or “illegals,” stationed in foreign countries. In his book, Kouzminov writes that various drugs were used periodically to test these operatives for signs of disloyalty or diversion. Once the drug had worn off, the agents would have no recollection of what they had said and, if their test results were satisfactory, they could be sent back into the field as though nothing had happened.
Yesterday, Snowden announced through Glenn Greenwald that “I never gave any information to Chinese or Russian governments.” I guess he assumes that Chinese and Russian officials don’t read The Guardian, The Washington Post, or the South China Morning Post. Anyway now it’s not clear if he would even remember if he gave them anything.
For all you Snowden and Greenwald fans out there, this information comes from an article in Time Magazine based on interviews with people who have actual experience with the ways Russia deals with spies. Don’t shoot the messenger.