By Erik Larson, Patricia Hurtado and Janelle Lawrence
BOSTON — The best chance for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to avoid execution for the deadly Boston Marathon bombing may be to cooperate fully with investigators, or convince a jury he was "brainwashed" by his older brother.
U.S. authorities said Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs near the race's finish line April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 200. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a shootout with police. Dzhokhar, captured hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard, was charged with two capital counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction.
His lawyers will probably blame his involvement on the "overpowering influence" of his 26-year-old brother, said Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties and defense attorney. Tamerlan Tsarnaev "appears to have been an embittered and dangerous character, and it is well known that older siblings can often have tremendous power over younger siblings."
The Tsarnaevs, immigrants of Chechen descent, had lived in the United States for more than a decade. Investigators are working with Russian authorities as they focus on a six-month trip Tamerlan took last year to Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, both Russian regions roiled by Islamist separatist movements.
While federal investigators seeks to piece together the genesis of the attack and whether others were involved, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has begun the prosecution of Tsarnaev, who is recovering from wounds suffered during the four-day hunt for him and his brother.
Tsarnaev, who had a gunshot wound to the neck, communicated to investigators by nods and in writing that he and his brother alone were responsible for the bombings and were motivated by extremist Islam, according to a U.S. official briefed on the initial interrogation. He also indicated they weren't aligned with any known terrorist or military groups.