WEEI>On Demand>>Public defense attorney Professor Birckhead on the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial

Public defense attorney Professor Birckhead on the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial

Apr 23, 2013|

Professor Birckhead joined the show to discuss the ensuing trial of suspect #2 in the Boston bombing case. She used her background of being the public defender of terrorist Richard Reed to serve as a guide for what will likely happen in this trial. The professor told the program that in order to maintain the great justice system we enjoy we must vigorously defend all Americans.

Transcript - will not be 100% accurate

Welcome back it's Dennis and Callahan 61777979. Resettle about your phone calls in just a bit we pause for some much legal advice from legal expertise. From someone who knows that a little bit but a lot about what is about to transpire and has already commenced here in Boston. -- Tamar -- University of North Carolina law professor criminal defense attorney. Juvenile justice advocate. And she defended Richard Reid the shoe bomber joins us on the AT&T hotline good morning mark -- John and Jerry here in Boston thanks for taking a few minutes. Sure are more as far as you can tell how daunting a task does Miriam Conrad have. As the public defender for suspect number two when this trial commences in the US justice system. It's pretty daunting. On top of the nuts and bolts. It's sending him. And. Revealing. That tried it says as that the federal government is. Is a -- saying you've got the media. To. Negotiate and the federal defender office in Boston as a small. Out there that they're you know it's federal sequestration. Budget cuts. And they don't exactly have -- communications liaison. Or that attained so you know you when I was in that position and I I. And the experience of writing my own pat truly is -- So that they. There's a lot. And it can be a lot of scrutiny. I'm sure that every decision that's made. But here it is. Excellent lawyer. Talks to Haitian. Can I confidential cute. The baskets and possible. Right setting aside the issues of obstacles and and scrutiny and short staffed and all those sorts of things in the face of what appears to be absolutely insurmountable. Evidence -- If you were Marion Conrad. What would your approach be. How would you attack that attack this problem. It well. Inherited the charges in the complaint carries the death penalty potentially there'll. A big part of this strategy. Right now it's going to be mitigation. Making sure that. Information gets out there that it's -- in nineteen year old. That he had someone stand. That he had been in trouble before daddy would probably acting under the influence. Very strong personalities. Older brother. And you know and nineteen I mean he didn't have the right to drink alcohol Massachusetts. And brain we're barely you know fully develop. I still. That's the kind of think they're going to be exploring and are going to be looking into his background and and thinking it had its two mitigation in addition to. You know arguing that the tentative evidence it's the other that seem overwhelming to us. You know we don't yet know we know at the chart part of the complaint but once there's an indictment. There could be additional charges we don't know what they are we don't know why they're gonna require. The US attorney's office to prove. And all of that it's gonna have to be -- it will be reviewed by -- that are colleagues. You know very closely rigorously. Now I know as a lawyer you have to zealously defend decline throw everything against the wall the you have your disposal but when you say. You know he was young is his brain was barely developed or that he didn't have a criminal record. You really believe that matters I mean he's he he's he's accused of blowing up an eight year old boy of excusing and any cop in cold blood. You think it matters that he doesn't have a criminal record. I think it matters in terms that is the ultimate penalty its gas. You know our our US Supreme Court. In 2005. Hell that it's unconstitutional. To execute. Juvenile offenders you know meaning and younger than eighteen -- he's old and eighteen but a lot of the same arguments apply. So you know like I -- for bought and bought it for fifteen years. I feel deeply for the people that he had a -- friend former colleagues there. I had my prayers are with them. It is this is not to say. That he shouldn't or won't be punished. We're. Execution on the cable. It's a whole other. You know ballpark for where the defense counsel. And at that point it's perfectly appropriate. Also say you know in terms of sentences to life without parole. You know. US Supreme Court has also recently. You know mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles. Are. Unconstitutional. You guys not juvenile if this. If -- established if established ages eighteen all right it's a team what's the difference between nineteen and 46 or nineteen in 226. At the numbers eighteen why does that matter he's nineteen. Or 29. Well it'll it'll matter to the judge can sentence and there. You know we we believe an individual individualized sentencing in this country. The criminal case itself. -- maturity all of that will be taken into account we're talking about it and he lied about pearl. We're talking about and it could be seventy years. That that secretly get treatment. Aaron you know maybe -- at what our identity to be perfectly legitimate -- -- at that point. The judge will be thinking about his age. We're talking with the University of North Carolina law professor defense criminal defense attorney Tamar Birkhead who defended Richard Reid the shoe bomber. -- essentially what you're if not acknowledging your at least acquiescing to the fact he's probably be going to. Found guilty -- trying to keep him alive that said. What if he wants to be martyred. Mark what if he wants the death penalties that we can join our lot and his brother how -- that monkey wrench affect the paradigm you're going on as defense attorney. Well it's the criminal defendant Schilling. As to whether or not to go to trial court to plead guilty. And that's difficult situation of course they can advice yeah. There has -- dependent. Who has its its its target test penalty. Rather than life without parole there. You know that it -- argument that life without parole is it is actually more -- -- More. A much more harsh a penalty that yet. And in -- they'll just have to he Marion and her colleagues we'll have to see what his attitude. If it's in terms. The options but from what I've read. Even though he has been cooperating. He's spoken. Federal agent. He cooperated at his arraignment he said he wanted to have counsel. He's an American citizen Utica college student. Into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It it to. I'd be very surprised. Arbitrary if he takes that patent. It Richard Reid want you to save him. Do you want me to sit him out he he wanted to go to court and just say what he had done. -- with four. Except you know take responsibility for what -- it. He didn't didn't wanna be a martyr like Khalid Sheikh Mohamed is not assisting as the fans correctly once the guy you -- you know he wants to be -- Our is that common I'm assuming and is a monkey artists. I didn't say you know each each. Personally it's different. Latin and people might say one -- before they've they've committed -- sacks. And after the fact when they're actually looking at. The consequences. There that you might change firm. So it's. It's really hard to you know I would want to generalize. The -- in your estimation does it take -- a certain person of resolve or certain model resolve. To defend the most hated people in entire country I mean it seems to be by and large not a 100% of the time but prosecutors are admired and beloved. And defense attorneys are looked at with scorn and ridicule as it takes a lot of resolve to defend that the most hated. -- imagine. At that differently I mean I consider. It's considered it a privilege. Q -- in that role I think that -- criminal justice system is critical if we don't have. Excellent -- is different. Who are the most hated. There's very little that separates our system from. In. The worst. System in the world. Still. You know I say bring in. It's it's. A little lies injured on Q and I imagine other execute -- where are drawn to. And it's an important one and it you know I I have -- the American people that. It despite. There anger and harder. Yeah. There -- here. Which emotionally I certainly share capital -- In Boston that's where my children were born. I can't say that people understand. -- you know it is constitutional rights due process rights. Are extremely important. And if we don't uphold them in this scenario. You know what's gonna stop us from our kicking short. In any other case. Are a joke cars public defender Miriam Conrad recently wrote and I'm interested to see tomorrow if you would agree with the sentiment on a general basis. From a personal standpoint I would say there are very few clients I have had. I didn't light. It just scratched the surface many -- had difficult lives and as their attorney I sort of see them whole not just as a person charged with a crime. No one has ever stood up for them and that is a very powerful emotional thing. Can you relate or not to that. I like I relate completely to that time I'd like. Just about every client I've had during my -- That's practiced over the -- you're the last twenty years. I would I would think they had. Most people would agree we are each more and the worst thing we have gone. And you know -- 99.9. Percent of the time. People are punished quite severely parsley in the country for criminal acts. But that doesn't mean that that is all they are add. My clients. Has including Richard Reid has shown. Great respect -- me. You know we had established the poor under very trying circumstances. He didn't kill anyone correct professor. Now if they if you had to defend Osama bin Laden do you think you'll like them. There -- like can I I don't know but I wouldn't try harder. Deputy ethical -- our defense counsel. Is. Common ground and to establish report says that you have that trust that your client and you can represent them. Rigorously. In -- you know part of what we must do. You don't have to like I mean if you defendant Mohamed that that you think you would like that after he killed 3000 people at the admin who you know. If he wasn't on you could like a guy know when he killed 3000 people. I am I I am I'm. Not my prediction to judge. It gets it I can't. Relax these ads basically -- -- -- overall and I and that professional role. I talked to my client they're human beings and I try to connect. Yeah. You know does that mean I end up liking them are often. You know I do -- -- the job and you judge them if you like them you judge them. -- You know why I -- I I think that distinction between between those two. Emotions. I mean I can I'm developing or for relief that can be light can't. -- I can sit down with the car that we can discuss the legal issues. We can treat each other with respect. I can feel. Sympathy for something that they may have. What do -- what do they blow up your kids at the marathon finish line would you be able to the would you judge. I think that's an impossible scenario. As possible. I mean I can say that I was in Boston working in the federal courthouse downtown on nine elevenths. -- three months later I was representing Richard -- And eat you know you've got a professional role you've got a personal role. And in order to do that kind of work for decades you need to be able to separate output to. And -- like let's say you're thank goodness. That -- people. Out error. To -- or our system would be a whole lot of trouble. We're talking -- defense attorney Tamar Birkhead filed a question for me as we sort of bring this full circle what would you be looking to accomplish during jury selection Tamar. If you're the attorney for a a joke -- Surely that's going to be extremely. Challenging because you've got the idea of finding. Jagr who has not -- either directly impacted I -- -- think the public. -- -- the Greater Boston area who are impacted by the locked down. You know 100000. People. 83 you've got all those people who are directly impacted and I would think you know I merely. Everyone in the commonwealth may have been indirectly tactic either by the attacks. Or by a locked yeah distress. That experience and you need folks on the jury. Who had not been either directly or indirectly impacted -- can be objective fact finders. So I would say that it could be a good chances. Requests trick change in venue. In that instance so that you could. Potentially. Flying to church who could -- into the -- as. And check it. You know without emotion. And mr. -- -- University of North Carolina law professor criminal defense attorney she. The defended Richard Reid the shoe bomber thanks for the information as -- pleasure talking to you this morning that Berkett. Sure. She joins us on the AT&T hotline AT&T by the way it's set up a text to -- line to benefit the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Text the -- Boston. 80108. To donate ten dollars to the one fund Boston message in battery supply. -- full terms at M give dot org slash T. -- Boston or Boston to 80108. And donate ten dollars -- the one. -- -- Where your phone calls that doesn't count it.

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