Tsarnaev Associate Matanov to Change Plea to Guilty

The United States Department of Justice confirms that Khairullozhon Matanov, accused of lying about having contact with suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after the Boston Marathon bombings, will change his plea from not guilty.

With jury selection underway and the start of the Boston Marathon bombing trial looming, the U.S. Attorney's Office confirms a friend of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is planning to change his plea to guilty.

Khairullozhon Matanov, a cab driver from Quincy, Massachusetts, who had dinner with the Tsarnaev brothers the night of the bombings, is charged with obstructing the investigation by destroying evidence and lying to investigators.

NECN legal analyst and Massachusetts School of Law Associate Dean Michael Coyne says it’s unlikely Matanov has just had a sudden change of heart.

"I think it's more likely that they have worked out some form of arrangement where his testimony will in fact be offered by the government and in return he may receive less of a sentence than he would otherwise because of his cooperation," said Coyne.

Meanwhile, the government and Tsarnaev's defense team have agreed to excuse 124 prospective jurors "for cause" out of the first two jury pools of roughly 450 people.

"I thought we would actually have more disqualified at this point," said Coyne. "I think it bodes well for eventually being able to impanel a jury that will be able to hear this case somewhat impartially."

But Coyne says that doesn't mean the next phase, where jurors are questioned individually, will be any easier.

"The likelihood is there's a bunch of people in this next group who are probably likely going to be disqualified but the attorneys are now trying to save their actual challenges for the ones that they really need further down the road," said Coyne.

Attorneys will exclude more jurors on Tuesday and Wednesday, then begin voir dire – or the individual questions – on Thursday.
Each side gets 20 peremptory challenges where they can excuse jurors without having to give a reason.

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