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Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Take The Stand?

March 30, 2015

One of the legal questions I have pondered during long showers is whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev takes the witness stand in the Boston bombing trial.  I find myself thinking about legal maneuvers more often over the years concerning the cases that make the news and seem to take more of my attention.   How the Supreme Court functions and rules has long been a source of great interest, but now those types of personal inquiries are spreading to other areas of the law. As I get older law becomes more of an enticing topic.    There are so many areas where my curiosity takes me–perhaps I need to concentrate on ways to prolong life to fit all my passion into a lifetime.

Meanwhile there is the question of whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  takes the stand in his trail for the Boston marathon bombing.

The trial is barreling toward that moment of decision. While it is rare for defendants in criminal trials to take the stand, except when arguing that they acted in self-defense, his lawyers could decide that they have nothing to lose. Technically, they could call him to the stand any time after the prosecution rests, which was expected to occur Monday. And if he is called, Mr. Tsarnaev’s testimony, along with his attitude and body language, could play a major role in determining whether he spends the rest of his life in prison or is condemned to death, if he is convicted.

“They’ve probably rehearsed a cross with him to see how it would go,” said Michael Cassidy, a former state prosecutor and now a professor of law at Boston College.

“They might not have called it a rehearsal, or told him about it, but that’s what they’re doing,” he said. “In the back of their minds, they are constantly asking themselves: How will he be perceived if he takes the stand? How does he react when he’s asked a question, when he’s challenged by authority, when an inconsistency is brought to his attention?”

Whether to put a defendant on the stand can be one of the most perilous decisions for the defense, especially in a capital case. Either choice carries risks. A defendant can just be a bad witness, especially under cross-examination, but even one who is prepared and articulate can rub the jury the wrong way. But if a defendant does not testify, jurors can become suspicious. Also, they like to see remorse, lawyers say, and almost no one can express it better than the accused.

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