Clash Over Tsarnaev Witnesses

Government pressing bomber's lawyers to call relatives from Russia taxpayers are paying to house and secure

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As lawyers for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev worked down testimony from a list of witnesses Wednesday including several former teachers and friends, necn legal editor Randy Chapman said they clearly were working to "humanize him, in hopes to get some sympathy from one or all the jurors that would spare him the death penalty."

But conflict was beginning to crackle over the question of when will Tsarnaev relations from Russia the government has flown in and housed - at U.S. taxpayer expense - finally get called by the defense.

"I want the record to reflect that it is still our intention that they are all going back to Russia on Friday whether they have testified or not, and the defense can make their decision about whether they want to call them between now and then or not," said government prosecutor William Weinreb.

Reports of Tsarnaev relatives at a hotel in Revere Friday set off a media frenzy, with crews in news helicopters filming overhead, and massive cancellations at the Hampton Inn.

The government says 16 FBI staffers have been assigned to provide security and monitoring for the Tsarnaev contingent while they are in Boston.

"The conditions under which their presence was permitted and the conditions under which we’re able to interact with them makes it extremely difficult to do the preparation work," Tsarnaev lawyer William Fick noted. "So there's a concern about whether we can be ready on Thursday."

"It's clear that they're here as witnesses to introduce the background of [Dzokhar Tsarnaev], to establish his upbringing, his family roots both in the community and in Russia," said Chapman.

While the government's complaining that the taxpayer meter is running on housing, feeding, and securing the Tsarnaev family, Chapman said he can't imagine that driving Judge George O'Toole to force Tsarnaev's lawyers to call them before they're ready.

"When you're measuring somebody's life and the importance of this case, whether they have to stay for an extra day or two, I would think it's highly unlikely that the judge is going to compel them to call them out of order," he said.

With videographer Sean G. Colahan

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