Posted at: 04/20/2013 8:17 PM
Updated at: 04/20/2013 10:30 PM
By: Stephen Tellier
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Former U.S. Attorney for MN Analyzes Bombing Case
While the city of Boston is sleeping easier, dozens of prosecutors and police officers are getting little sleep. That's because they're hard at work building a criminal case against the suspected bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19.
"There are multiple priorities and they all have to happen at the same time," said Tom Heffelfinger, former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota.
Heffelfinger speaks from experience.
"I've seen a community -- this community -- be paralyzed for weeks because of a pipe bomber," Heffelfinger said.
Heffelfinger worked the case against Earl Karr, the Minneapolis man who planted 23 pipe bombs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa in 1984, injuring six people. He knows how complex a case like this week's Boston Marathon bombing can become.
"Explosives cases are a challenge because the evidence is destroyed in some respects," Heffelfinger said.
Heffelfinger said the U.S. Attorney in Boston is working feverishly, picking her team of prosecutors, pushing police to focus on forensic evidence, and trying to track down every word written and uttered by the suspect.
"It's very, very important to understand in the context of these kinds of crimes what the motivation was," Heffelfinger said.
He said he also agrees with the decision not to read the suspect his Miranda rights, as a matter of public safety.
"There has to be a priority given to making sure there isn't somebody that could get hurt by a destructive device," Heffelfinger said.
It's unclear how long such a high-profile case could take to prosecute. But Heffelfinger said that's not the point. There is no timeline for when Tsarnaev will be charged.
It's also unclear what charges he might face. But the most serious crimes against him could be use of a weapon of mass destruction - which would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
"Speed is not the issue here. It's doing it right," Heffelfinger said.