The lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are trying to get the death penalty taken off the table in his upcoming trial.
Fox News reports that the suspect’s attorneys filed a motion Wednesday asking the judge in the case to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional.
The motion comes on the heels of a botched lethal injection execution in Oklahoma last week.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers acknowledge that case law is against them. But according to a story in the Los Angeles Times, they hope new concerns over the death penalty’s use will help them in the current case. They cite “mounting evidence that innocent people have actually been executed in recent years in the United States” and “public and worldwide revulsion over the recurring spectacle of botched executions” as reasons why the judge should rule in their favor.
In separate documents, defense lawyers also urge U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to throw out some of the so-called aggravating factors the prosecution is using to justify the use of the death penalty in the bombing case.
In January prosecutors were required by law to list those factors. One of those cited Tsarnaev’s “premeditation” of the bombing plot while a separate factor claimed he “targeted the Boston Marathon.”
According to the defense, listing both factors runs the risk of “skewing the sentencing process in favor of the death penalty.”
“The Federal Death Penalty Act does not authorize the government to charge, or the sentencing jury to weigh, multiple aggravating factors that mean the same thing,” the lawyers argued, according to The Boston Globe.
Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan are suspected of planting two pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. The bombs killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police in the days after the bombing.
Defense lawyers have also sought to suppress statements Dzhokhar made to FBI agents while recovering in the hospital from injuries sustained in the same gunfight.
Gerard T. Leone Jr., a former federal prosecutor, said that motion may be moot.
“You’d be hard-pressed not to say that to allow these statements in would require a wide expansion of the law as it presently exists,” he said. “In matters like this one, particularly in terrorism matters, the goal isn’t always to obtain information to be used later at trial. The goal is to save lives.”