Appeal Update, Site Changes and What’s Next on the Blog

Hello and happy 2016! I apologize that I’m not coming to you with a new post of case analysis, but there’s been some developments in both the case and the blog, so I wanted to address those fairly quickly before moving on. Rest assured I have been hard at work on the research and planning, as new information is still coming to me regularly, and I will be getting it out soon. But first…

Appeal and Case Updates

The law has spoken. Okay, for now.

As many of you may know, January was a pretty big month for developments in Dzhokhar’s case. As predicted in my last post, on January 15th, Judge O’Toole denied the defense’s motion for judgement notwithstanding the verdict, upholding the convictions and sentence. However, that enabled the case to move onto the next stage: on January 29th, the Notice to Appeal was filed, and the defense appealed every conceivable thing. Here’s the whole list:

(1) the district court’s judgment of conviction and sentence, entered on June 24, 2015 (DE 1480);

(2) the Order, entered on June 25, 2015, granting the government’s Motion for Forfeiture of Property (DE 1481);

(3) the Opinion and Order, entered on August 24, 2015, denying the Motion to Unseal Document and for Public Access to Jury List (DE 1511);

(4) the amended judgment of conviction and sentence, entered on January 15, 2016 (DE 1618);

(5) the Opinion and Order, entered on January 15, 2016 (DE 1620), denying defendant’s Motion for New Trial and Judgment NOV;

(6) the Opinion and Order, entered on January 15, 2016, denying in part defendant’s Motion to Maintain Protection of Privileged and Confidential Defense Information and Work Product (DE 1619);

(7) all rulings and orders contained in docket 13-MC-91116-JLT

(8) all rulings and orders contained in docket M.B.D. No. 15-MC-91085-GAO;

(9) and all other rulings and orders of the district court concerning Mr. Tsarnaev, including but not limited to all pretrial, trial, and sentencing rulings and orders of the district court. (1-2)

I should mention there was one victory for the defense in O’Toole’s ruling: he granted that they could keep work product sought after by the government confidential, in keeping with the attorney-client privilege guaranteed to the defendant, although with the stipulation that they would be turned over in the event that all appeal efforts had been exhausted. The defense was clearly not satisfied with that answer, as seen in item (6) above, but in the short term that’s excellent news: it is absolutely preposterous that the prosecution seeks defense work product that is constitutionally protected just because the defendant happens to have been convicted of terrorism-related charges. But for the moment, that work product remains safe in the hands of the defense team, which prevents litigation from being wasted on it when there are clearly larger issues to be addressed at the appellate level.

Finally, at the end of January, the Court released to the public about 600 previously sealed documents, reports and exhibits related to the case, which I’m hoping can aid with ongoing research efforts. There’s still a lot to read and digest, but the more transparency that is granted, the easier it will be to shed light on the gross miscarriage of justice.

Hand reaches out from crumpled papers
Dramatic reenactment of sorting through the paperwork generated from this case.

Site Changes

If you’ve been following this blog since the trial, or found it any time before a couple weeks ago, you will surely notice there have been a lot of recent changes to the look, layout and even the site URL. There are a few reasons why, but here’s the main one.

When I started posting about Dzhokhar and my experiences with his case almost a year ago, I had no idea the following I would get. I wrote a short reflection piece on my experience visiting the courthouse and posted it on a derelict personal blog. As the months wore on, and my visitor count climbed into the thousands — with daily traffic on the posts about the case — it became clear to me that this blog isn’t just the sum of my thoughts, feelings, and research. It is a haven for those who are seeking something more than the company line about the crimes in question and Dzhokhar’s role in them. At a conference last summer, while still reeling from the death verdict, I confessed to a fellow writer: “I don’t want the official story to be the only one that’s known about him. I owe him that much.”

As this blog has gained traction, I realized that every time someone reads what I write here, I’m keeping the mental promise I made to Dzhokhar when I saw his overwhelmed expression in the courtroom last spring. It’s my obligation to be clear about the purpose of my writing, and update the site’s look to match its content. For that reason, I registered a new domain to set this project apart from the personal blog that it has evolved beyond. While my previous address will still redirect here, I recommend you update your bookmarks to, which I hope will be easy to access for veteran readers as well as new ones. (And the inclusion of dashes in the URL won’t cause problems for accessibility, as I have lain awake nights worrying about after somewhat impulsively purchasing the domain name.)

Also, I’ve redistributed my social media links, no longer linking the blog to my outdated personal accounts, but a streamlined and (hopefully) professional presence. If you are looking for ways to remain updated, you can either hit the Follow button at the top of this post and receive email updates, or Follow or Like the following social media pages, whichever is your preference:

Twitter: @USvTsarnaev

I confess that I don’t have a big presence on social media, so I can’t promise there will be much supplementary material posted, but considering a large portion of my traffic comes from Twitter and Facebook, I thought it would be a good idea to stake a claim there. Also, I’ve recently added more Share buttons, so if there are any posts you think would be beneficial to other readers, I encourage you to use them to post to your own social media feeds. I return to the ever apt adage: knowledge is power. The more people who know the truth, the more power we will have.

Additionally, I hope the changes to the layout will be easier to read and navigate, now that the entire site is dedicated to my research and writings about this case. My previous design was circa 2010 and I hope I’ve picked something that helps with readability. I’ve added some relevant pages, including an About section that addresses the overall mission of the project, and a Contributors page so that those who have so generously dedicated time, money and expertise to enriching the quality of my research are given the credit they deserve.

Finally, if you have any comments or suggestions about the look of the site or sharing capabilities, please feel free to leave a comment to this post. I’m far from a web guru, so there might be certain functions I’m missing. Thanks to all the readers who have been dealing with the recent site changes as I’ve been updating them in my spare time.

Up Next On the Blog

Exhibit 678 – Officer Sean Collier. He was killed the night of April 18, 2013, and I’ve had a lot of questions ever since.

I feel badly for not having anything but quick updates to share today, so I wanted to end with a preview for what’s coming up soon. With the invaluable aid of my father, we have devised a trilogy of posts tackling a piece of the puzzle that hasn’t yet been discussed here: the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier.

Officer Collier’s death is an important aspect of the case, and one that frequently gets lumped into the other casualties of the Marathon Bombing. While his murder is equally tragic, I have always viewed it as a different beast from the bombing itself, a beast about which very little is known, even to this day. And yet, Dzhokhar was convicted of the crime without much fuss, despite a dearth of evidence — and some evidence that is, in fact, contradictory to the notion that he himself was the killer.

While much of the defense theory I’ve written about thus far has to do with duress, in regards to Officer Collier the issue is much more cut and dried. With my father’s expertise, I plan to build a defense that creates reasonable doubt about Dzhokhar’s involvement in Officer Collier’s killing, in providing the murder weapon, and even in the larger conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. The research portion of this endeavor has included site visits, mathematical calculations, video enhancements, and an excessive amount of time spent over the Christmas holidays discussing Dzhokhar’s nose.

All of which is relevant, I promise.

Until then, I hope your 2016 has started out well, and thank you as always for reading, following, and sharing my posts. Without you, none of this would be possible.

Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Appeal Update, Site Changes and What’s Next on the Blog”

  1. This is wonderful Heather! The new set up is simple and clear. I’m so happy to hear your thoughts and research on the murder of Collier and I can’t wait to read your post on it!! It’s great to know that you (and your Dad) are still very much involved in this case.

    1. Hi Julie! It’s great to hear from you. I hope you are doing well and thank you for the site feedback. I had a feeling you would be interested in the upcoming topic. I apologize it’s taken so long to get to, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait. 🙂 Particularly with my dad on board — I think he’s provided a very much needed “lawyer’s eye” to the issue. And I’m absolutely in for the long haul with the case, don’t worry. Thanks again and I’ll be back soon.

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