The “damning” evidence
by Josée Lépine
Dzhokhar (“Jahar”) Tsarnaev, age 21, was tried in the US District Court of Massachusetts. One of the charges against him was the murder of MIT policeman Sean Collier. The prosecution called many witnesses to testify about this. Today I’ll only cover the four that testified on March 11, 2015: Sacco, Isgur, Henniger and Harman.
- Patrolman David Sacco, MIT Police.
On April 18, 2013 Patrolman Sacco was working the desk, meaning that he was the dispatcher. He said that he received an “MIT 911 call” at 10:20 p.m. from a person in the Koch Institute building. That caller said he had heard loud noises, sharp quick noises and that he could see a police car outside his window on the Stata side (Stata Center is a building on the MIT campus).
When asked by Officer Sacco to describe the noises the caller said that it sounded like someone was hitting a trashcan really loud. You can hear the person making the call here.
Note: 911 calls are registered as to the precise time they come in.
- Matthew Isgur, the man who manages the cameras on the MIT campus
When Mr. Isgur took the stand, the prosecutor played a video, Exhibit 724, showing two persons walking hurriedly across the tarmac. I will call this “the Tiny-figures video.” Two persons, shown from a great distance, approach what is said (by the prosecution) to be the cruiser of Officer Collier. The tiny figures pause there. We can’t see what they are doing. Then they hurry away, back to the area they came from.
Please watch it. You will be appalled that anyone would try to offer this as evidence, and you will be even more appalled that the defense did not question it.
Mr. Isgur testified that there are, incredibly, 1,200 cameras on that campus.
Mr. Isgur put together a full one-hour video, covering the timeframe of 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the night of April 18, 2013. The Exhibit video that he was asked to look at in Court is a composite of segments of his original video. But it is revealing. You can view it here.
At 10:16:10, Sean Collier’s cruiser comes into view and goes toward the Koch Institute, and 23 seconds later parks it at Koch Institute (i.e., at 10:16:23 p.m.).
Then, at 10:16:50, less than half a minute after the car is parked, the video makes a jump. I believe this is critical to the case of Tsarnaev’s innocence. Because of the jump we don’t get to see what happened in that part of the MIT campus during the missing time.
The missing part is 10:16:50 to 10:23:38. The gap lasts just over 6 minutes. Note: This is all before any appearance by the tiny-figure persons. Whatever happened during the missing time, if anything, happened before the tiny figures came along.
And what may have happened? Think back to the 911 call that was registered at 10:20. (The man who said he heard noises may have heard it only seconds before he dialled 911, but we can’t know if he heard it and waited a goodly few minutes before calling. Unfortunately he was not summoned to testify.)
As Officer Sacco said, the 10:20 caller reported that he heard loud noises like banging a trashcan. That falls into the time that is missing from the video.
I don’t want to make too much of the reported noise. I suspect the entire scene has been cooked up and someone was asked to place the call at that moment so it could be used to tie in with the outrageous accusation against Jahar. But the jury bought it all, and the accused was indeed convicted of the murder of Collier.
The gap in the 6 minutes 48 seconds strikes me as fishy.
Now I will clock the video:
At 10:23:38 The tiny figures come into view and they are seen within a yellow circle. (Mr. Isgur said that the yellow circle was added and is not part of his original video.)
10:24:31 The two tiny figures (whom the prosecution wants everyone to think are the Tsarnaev brothers) turn the corner, and walk towards the back of the cruiser.
10:24:38 The tiny figures are very close to the cruiser but not yet at the door of the cruiser.
10:25:22 Less than one minute later – 44 seconds to be exact — the tiny figures retreat from the cruiser area, and walk swiftly back to where they originally came from, disappearing from the screen completely by 10.25:59. You may want to ask if 44 seconds was enough time to do the murder.
- Sargeant Clarence Henniger of the MIT Police
Sgt Henniger testified that at approximately 10:20 that evening of April 18, 2013 he was returning back to the station in his car. He was coming down from Main Street, took a right on Vassar, and he observed Officer Collier’s cruiser parked there next to the Koch building. He did not notice anything unusual.
One would think that being so close to the vicinity where the loud noises were being reported, he would have heard them. He has been an MIT police officer for 40 years. And surely he knows what a gunshot sounds like.
There is an odd aside here. Earlier in the day of April 18, 2013, numerous FBI agents were seen on the campus and in Cambridge. Or so it was said to the media by none other than Henniger. In a later article we will discuss this.
- Nathan Harman, an MIT student of mathematics.
Nathan Harman testified that while he was returning home, on bicycle, from his office at MIT, he came to within 5 to 6 feet of the person who was perched waist-height into Collier’s cruiser. He described “one” person, did not allege to have seen two! Nathan did not notice anything amiss. He said he startled the man, and identified Jahar by pointing the finger at him in Court.
That witness, on his bicycle, was right there and at the precise moment that the prosecution alleges that the Tsarnaev brothers (two of them) were busy committing the murder of Collier. So of course Nathan should have heard the gunshots. He should have seen violent activity, yet he did not testify to that. He should have seen two men, not one man. (And in a later article I will tell you that he should have seen the brake lights go on….) You can see the video here.
Now let me show you the connection between the tiny figures and Nathan. These came from the same camera.
10:24:31 Tiny figures turn the corner and walk towards the back of the cruiser. The cruisers lights switch on.
10:24:38 Nathan Harman comes into the video
10:24:59 Nathan Harman, cycling, passes the middle of the cruiser
10:25:06 Nathan Harman disappears from the video
10:25:22 The tiny figures retreat, starting at 10.25.22. That is 16 seconds, about a fourth of a minute, after the cyclist has driven past the cruiser.
Now I will quote some of Nathan Harman’s sworn testimony, bolding the parts of interest:
Q Mr. Harman, How old are you?
Q What do you do?
A I’m a graduate student at MIT.
MR WEINREB: Can I have Exhibit 682, please.
Q And, in fact, do you have an office at MIT?
A Yeah …
Q How well lit is the courtyard?
A Fairly well lit. There’s lights all along all of the major walkways….The buildings are always lit at night….
Q Were you in your office on the night of April 18, 2013?
A Yes…. I was there working on a problem set that was due the next day.
Q Approximately what time did you leave?
A After ten. Maybe 10:20. Once I noticed it was after ten, that’s how I knew it was time for me to give it up and go to bed….
MR WEINREB: It might actually be easier if we pulled up 683. … Can you just, by using your finger, show us the route you took when you left on your bicycle?
A Sure. I would have come right up here and then up that way (indicating).
Q Okay. Did you notice anything unusual when you biked through the courtyard?
A Yes; there was a parked police cruiser, like, right here…
Q Was there anything unusual about the cruiser that you noticed?
A When I went by … the front door was open, the driver’s side door, and there was someone leaning into the driver’s side door.
Q What do you mean by leaning into it?
A I mean, they were sort of bent around the waist with their head and sort of the upper part of their torso inside the police car as I was coming up, and then they sort of stood up, startled, when I rode my bike by them.
Q Okay. So explain that. So you’re riding down the path. And how close to the back of that person who you saw did you come?
A Within five or six feet.
Q And what happened exactly — happened exactly as you drove by them?
A He sort of snapped up, stood up and turned around, and he looked startled, and then I just, you know, didn’t think anything of it and rode off.
Q Did he look at you?
Q Did you look at him?
A Yes. We made eye contact.
Q Did you get a good look at his face?
A Pretty good.
Q What did he look like?
A I mean, he was young. I just assumed he was an MIT student. Young, normal height, thin. Yeah. He was wearing a dark sweatshirt and a hat. Yeah.
Q Did you notice, did the sweatshirt have anything on it or was it just plain?
A Well … as I was coming up I just saw the back of his sweatshirt, and then when he turned around there was the door there, but there was something on the front, some sort of — so the sweatshirt itself was dark and there was a lighter thing on the front, but I didn’t actually see what it was.
Q Were you able to tell what race he was, or color?
A I thought he was white.
Q Did he seem skinny, fat?
A Skinny, yeah. Thin….
Q Any facial feature that stood out for you?
A I remember thinking he had a big nose….
Q Do you see that person in the courtroom today?
A Yes. [He points to Jahar.]
MR WEINREB: Can we have Exhibit 725 just for the witness….
Q Do you recall reviewing a segment of this video ….
A Yes. … It’s been shown to me a few times.
MR WEINREB: The government offers
MR WATKINS: No objection….
Q So I’m playing the video now. Let me just draw your attention to the pathway that leads up to the cruiser. Do you see a figure on a bicycle biking up that path?
A Yeah. That’s me.
Q So when the figure snapped up and looked you in the eyes and you made eye contact, you didn’t stop at that point; you just kept going?
A No, I just laughed, actually. I thought I just startled him and I kept going.
Q Did you see a second person by the car?
A No, I only saw the one person.
Q Do you recognize the person pictured in … 758 and 761?
Q How does that person compare to the person you saw that night?
A That definitely could have been the person I saw that night.
Q The design on the front of the sweatshirt, is that consistent with what you saw that night?
A That’s definitely consistent with what I saw.
Q …you said the person was wearing a cap of some kind. Is this what he was wearing?
A That’s not the hat that I remember seeing. I remember seeing a, like, more knit hat that you pull over your head….
MR WEINREB: … Thank you, Mr. Harman. No further questions.
MR WATKINS [Defense]: No questions, your Honor.
The physical knit cap was never showed to the jurors. We all know from reading court documents that the FBI seized EVERYTHING from the Tsarnaevs. It seems that they have not found any knit cap at their apartment, the dorm room, the Honda, the SUV nor in the boat. The prosecutor did not even offer the knit cap as evidence.
MR WEINREB: Your Honor, we’re not going to offer that at this time.
Is the knit cap just a fiction of the FBI/Government imagination?
Reader, I hope you will watch the videos. They will prove to you that this case is a joke. I will now state what I see as issues:
- The Court used two separate videos, Exhibit 724 and 725 but they are really one; they were taken from the same camera. I wonder if the jury mistook them to have been from two different cameras.
- If MIT is so richly endowed with cameras (1200 of them!) why must we use one that was located on the roof top of a 24-floor building? For its own security reasons doesn’t MIT do better surveillance that that?
- In the dark could the cyclist have seen the man’s clothing, and the eye contact? He did not even slow down?
- A call supposedly came in at 10:20 from a man in the Koch Institute, reporting loud noises. Sgt Henniger said he drove past Collier’s cruiser parked at the Koch Institute, around 10:20, and did not see or hear anything wrong. That is a conflict, isn’t it?
- Mr Isgur created a one hour video from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. of the night in question (It was a Thursday night). Someone else – presumably in the prosecutor’s office – perhaps cherry-picked that video. In any case a jump appears from 10:17 to 10:23. That is a problem, isn’t it, since two of the witnesses, Sacco and Henniger, were both testifying about what happened at 10.20 p.m.
- Most peculiar on the face of it is the exchange between Prosecutor Weinreb and Witness Harman. They seem to speak interchangeably of “him” and “them.” The only way the tiny figures can be used as representing the Tsarnaev brothers is if there are two of them. Nathan’s seeing only one is puzzling.
— Josée Lépine lives in Canada. She is doing private research based on the trial transcripts in the Tsarnaev case. No one in mainstream media is raising any of the questions she raises.