Sunday, April 26, 2015

Photos with Bill and Henry Richard published by Telegraph: forged

Update 5/7/2015: CNN recently aired this forged photo in their documentary Murder at the Marathon:

Three days after the Marathon bombings, on April 18th 2013, the same day the Tsarnaevs were declared outlaws by the FBI, the Telegraph published a story based on some photos with Bill and Henry Richard at the second bomb site, father and brother of Martin Richard. The story has been taken offline soon, but a link to it - see above - shows one of the photos the article is about.

The picture belongs to a series of three photos obviously taken by the same photographer within a few seconds, because the perspective and the depicted persons are the same in large part. The two other photos were presumably also part of the Telegraph article and downloaded by someone before the article vanished. The order Photo A - Photo B - Photo C is chronological.

Photo A

Photo B

Photo C

This blog post is meant to make the case for the three photos being forged, because it is impossible that "Bill and Henry Richard" (whom I will refer to as Father and Son because I'm not certain about their identity) have been at this particular location - the area around the little road sign - at the same time as certain persons in the background. The background without Father and Son is consistent, it depicts conclusively and comprehensibly the scene at the road sign about 5 minutes after the blast. But Father and Son seem to have been digitally superimposed onto it afterwards.

My argumentation works like a time zoom. Using other established video and photographic material as reference, namely the Fred Land video, it is possible to narrow down the time slot for the creation of the photos in several steps. For the rest of the article, all time data designate minutes:seconds after the blast, with the "after the blast" omitted.

For start, the photos were not made before 3:20 because only at this point the barrier at the road sign was removed. At 5:06 Father and Son are seen hurrying away from the bomb site on the Fred Land video. This amounts to an initial time slot of 3:20-5:06.

There are several firefighters on the photos. In Step 1 I'll show that the first firefighters arrived at the area at about 4:30, narrowing down the time slot to 4:30-5:06.

Step 2 will demonstrate that, by tracking Father and Son on other footage and matching their moves, Photo C cannot have been shot later than 4:58, narrowing down the time slot to 4:30-4:58.

Step 3 will demonstrate that, by tracking particular individuals on other footage and matching their moves, Photo C cannot have been shot earlier than 5:04. This is obviously not within the time slot established in Step 2.

Bottom line: Step 2 and Step 3 lead to mutually exclusive results regarding the time when the photos were created, suggesting that they are manipulated.

Step 1


Here are some photos/video stills between 3:40 and 4:30. No firefighters are visible near the road sign, neither Father and Son. For reference, take a look at this timeline of Father and Son.





On the last photo some firefighters are already on their way toward the site. A little bit later, at 4:30-4:35, two of them have arrived at the road sign; one with a yellow vest with two crossing red stripes and a black strap over the back. I have highlighted him by a yellow rectangle. Another one is wearing a blue cap, highlighted by a blue rectangle.



Both firefighters appear in Photo A and/or Photo C:

It is therefore evident that Photos A, B, and C have been shot after 4:30.

Step 2 


Father and Son traverse the Fred Land video's field of view between 5:06 and 5:15. Here's a screenshot at 6:08 in the video, corresponding to 5:08 after the blast.

The following diagram illustrates their path. The blue dots represent their location in 1-second intervals.

The diagram also sketches the field of view of Photo C. The sight lines of the photo's right and left border and the center line cut in one point, the position of the photographer. He was apparently standing in front of fire truck "Ladder 17".

Father and Son's speed in the Fred Land video can easily be determined as about 2 meters/sec. The distance of their position in Photo C to their entry point in the video is about 16 meters, which allows it to pinpoint the time of Photo C at 4:58 under the condition of a constant speed.

Whereas they may have moved more slowly before being visible in the video, it is highly unlikely that they were able to reach a higher speed while running arm in arm. It is therefore safe to say that Photo C may have been shot before 4:58, but certainly not later.

Step 3


Step 3 is a bit more tricky than the previous ones and will introduce two gentlemen depicted in the photos.

At 6:03 in the Fred Land video (5:03 after the blast) a runner enters the area from the right. He wears white shorts, a striking two-colored jacket and a cap. I name him "White Shorts". He is fairly fast, jumps over a barricade at 5:07 and leaves the field of view at 5:08. This snapshot from 5:06 highlights White Shorts by a white rectangle. Father and Son are just getting visible on the right.

The diagram illustrates White Short's path in the video:

White Shorts is also on this little known video. At the beginning, fire truck Ladder 15 is just moving ahead, enabling it to pinpoint the video's start at 4:41. Between 0:03 and 0:06 in the video (i.e. between 4:44 and 4:47 after the blast) White Shorts can be seen standing at the stop line near the forum. Then the camera sways away, so it cannot be exactly determined when he started to move.

And interestingly, he is also visible in Photo B:

This results in the following diagram.

In the Fred Land video, White Shorts' speed is about 4 meters/second. Given that he kept a constant speed before entering the video, Photo B depicts him 3 seconds earlier, at 5:00. Even if he was walking or running slower at the moment when Photo B was shot and accelerated on the last steps, he certainly didn't need more than five seconds from Photo B until entering the video.

This means Photo B was not shot before 4:58. But what is the time difference between Photo B and Photo C?

While the changes from Photo A to Photo B are so small that the difference is 1 second at most (note the firefighter in the foreground who just steps from the street onto the sidewalk), the changes from Photo B to Photo C suggest a bigger timely difference.

Another gentleman helps solving the problem. I name him "Red Jacket" because he wears a red "Red Sox" jacket. He is on all three photos, I have highlighted him by a red rectangle.

Red Jacket's location has distinctly changed between Photo B and Photo C. On Photo B (and Photo A) he is near the Forum entrance, at the borderline between the patio and the sidewalk. On Photo C, he is at the curb directly in front of the road sign.

Red Jacket could not move straightly from the patio to the curb because the path was blocked by injured people and first responders. The diagram illustrates the situation: To arrive at the curb, Red Jacket was forced to move carefully around the hatched area. For this maneuver he needed at least six seconds, most probably more.

This means that the time difference between Photo B and Photo C is at least 6 seconds. So if Photo B was not shot earlier than 4:58, Photo C was not shot earlier than 6:04. This is a contradiction to the findings in Step 2 und leads to the compelling conclusion that Photo C and, as a corollary, Photo B and Photo A are not genuine.

The reasoning in Step 2 and Step 3 sounds tricky and complicated, but it is essentially quite easy. It can be expressed very shortly in algebraic terms, if we take the greater or equal sign (≥) as "happened not earlier than" and the less or equal sign (≤) as "happened not later than".

Step 2:

Photo C ≤  4:58 (Father and Son)

Step 3:

Photo B ≥  4:58 (White Shorts)

Photo C ≥  Photo B + 0:06 (Red Jacket)
Photo C ≥  6:04

Contradiction - Q.E.D. The photos must be forged.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What happened to the Lord&Taylor video? - Part 2

This is the continuation of my article Do the Tsarnaev defense's last-minute photos bear proof for innocence? where I promised to show that the defense might be able to turn the table just with a few photos. It is also a continuation of an article from November 22, 2013 about the shadowy Lord&Taylor surveillance video which was last mentioned on April 17, 2013 - two days after the bombings, exactly two years ago. We never heard from the video again.

It is unclear if the defense has seen the video. The brand name Lord&Taylor appeared on a list of companies, potential contributors of evidence, as requested by the defense and approved by the government. The entry "Lord&Taylor" was most likely in reference to the said video.

So the defense lawyers might have obtained the video or not - we don't know it. And even if they were successful so far, it might be buried under the disordered 6-7 terabyte of digital data for which the defense appraised years of search to find the few needles in the haystack. Albeit, it's possible they found it already. Apart from that, it might also have passed to them by a whistleblower. The possibility that the defense knows the video is definitely given.

The Lord&Taylor video is not the only candidate for potential bombshell evidence in the hands of the defense, but it is an excellent representative. In the morning of April 17, 2013, it was praised in the news as a big breakthrough because it allegedly showed a dark-skinned male person placing a black bag in front of the Forum, exactly the bag the investigators were looking for. It was also reported that the suspect was identified with the help of enhanced video techniques, facial recognition etc. One hour later, reports came in that an arrest had been made, a suspect was in custody and moved to the courthouse.

Another hour later, the arrest was disclaimed and qualified as a rumor. No arrest, no suspect. The Lord&Taylor video and its decisive role seemed to be forgotten from one minute to the next. One day later, the Tsarnaev brothers were presented as the culprits.

It is this reported breakthrough moment of the Lord&Taylor video which makes it so attractive for the defense. It might show the person with the black backpack arriving at the Forum, dropping it in front of the entrance and sneaking away. And all the while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stands at the metal barriers looking at the runners, with his bag at his feet. The video might also indicate that the explosion happened on the patio - or exclude an explosion at the place where Dzhokhar's bag was.

There is ample speculation in this scenario, and many imponderables come along. The scenario shows, however, that a few self-explanatory photos might be sufficient to exonerate Dzhokhar with one stroke. The Lord&Taylor video is just one example. The potential pool of footage from the second bomb site, private or public, is big. A lot of cameras were roaming around. The defense's footage might exceed the government's scant material by the factor 2, 3, or 10 - in any case, enough to turn the table.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's movement profile after the blasts

Conrad seizes on distance question: "you spent a week on Boylston, took hundreds of photos, don't know distance?" No. 
David Boeri tweet on March 30, 2015

During the questioning of FBI photographer Michelle Gamble defense attorney Miriam Conrad exhibited a keen interest in particulars of the official Forum video whose significance didn't immediately disclose itself to the common observer. (I have documented the cross-examination in my last blog entry.) The distance of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the location of the bomb at the moment of the explosion was one of them. Does Conrad have any independent information about the distance that doesn't match the video?

This thought invites to a closer scrutiny of the distance question. It is indeed possible to establish a fairly precise post-blast movement profile for Dzhokhar. I have expounded here that the Forum video and the Fred Land video together cover a big part of the sidewalk, with only a small gap in between. The Forum video shows Dzhokhar walking away swiftly after the first blast (7:43-7:55 in this compilation). When the second blast occurs, he's just at the borderline between Atlantic Fish and Crate&Barrel, almost the same place where he was standing before he went down to the Forum. He then appears in the Fred Land video, now slowly running (8:39-8:45 in the compilation).  

The diagram illustrates the movement profile:

The rhombs indicate Dzhokhar's path, the attached numbers indicate the respective seconds after the first blast. For the first 12 seconds, he's visible in the Forum video. For seconds 22-28, he's visible in the Fred Land video. During seconds 12-22, he's in the "gap".

Thus Dzhokhar's movement profile can conveniently be subdivided into four parts:

1 - Forum, seconds 0-6. He only moves a little bit, looks back, waits, moves again a bit, but doesn't hurry away yet.

2 - Atlantic Fish, seconds 6-12. He hurries away, quickly walking rather than running, with a speed of about 2 meters/sec.

Second explosion occurs.

3 - Crate&Barrel, seconds 12-22. He distinctly slows down, speed about 1,5 meters/sec.

4 - Abe&Louie's, seconds 22-28. He is slowly running now, speed about 2,5 meters/sec.

With the exception of section 3, the speed is simply derived from observing the videos. We don't know what Dzhokhar did in the gap at Crate&Barrel, but most likely he didn't stop for a pause, so I divided this distance into 10 equidistant sections.

This movement profile creates a plausibility problem. Why did Dzhokhar slow down just when the second bomb exploded - one would expect that he would start running like everyone else. But he needed ten entire seconds to bridge the Crate&Barrel gap, which corresponds to a moderate walking, not a running. Something doesn't add up here.

This is even more astonishing as the sidewalk in front of Crate&Barrel is broader than elsewhere, simply because there is no patio there. So the slow down cannot be explained by pedestrian traffic, we would rather expect a speed-up.

At this point, I'd like to recapitulate that there are some peculiar oddities with the Forum video - not matching the Fred Land video is only one of them. Another one is the criminal complaint, which has Dzhokhar not standing behind the tree, but at the barriers, and describes him "calmly but rapidly moving to the west", a calm which is not observable in the Forum video.

It looks therefore legitimate to establish an alternative movement profile, neglecting the Forum video, instead with premises set by the criminal complaint and the Fred Land video:

In this scenario Dzhokhar is standing at the metal barriers between the tree and the mailbox when the first blast occurs. After three seconds, he walks away. When the second blast occurs, he starts running, reaching a speed of 2,5 meters/sec when entering the Crate&Barrel gap and keeping it.

This alternative version looks much more realistic. Here, Dzhokhar must have been in the middle of the Atlantic Fish sidewalk when the second bomb exploded, much closer to the blast than in the Forum video.

Miriam Conrad has of course "insider knowledge" about Dzhokhar's location at the second blast. Is this the only reason she "seized on the distance question" - or is she also aware of footage in conflict with the Forum video?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Miriam Conrad's cross-examination of FBI photographer Michelle Gamble

On March 30, 2015 the prosecution finished its presentation in the guilt phase of the Tsarnaev trial. FBI photographer Michelle Gamble was the second-last prosecution witness to testify and the last cross-examined by the defense. At the end of his questioning prosecution attorney Weinreb turned to the footage of the second bomb site. In the cross-examination Miriam Conrad immediately chimed in to the subject with a few questions:

- she makes Gamble admit that an overhead diagram of the Forum with circles indicating the position of people on the sidewalk does not show all people who were there, i.e. that the diagram omits some people. Gamble also admits that the prosecution told her to do so.

- she asks Gamble for the distance of Dzokhar to the bomb when it went off, which Gamble is unable to answer.

- she points out that on the Forum video some people "moved around a bit" after the first blast, which is confirmed by Gamble.

For the common observer, Conrad's questions must look cryptic, incoherent and not expedient. Where did she want to get at? It is even weirder that these were the defense's last questions with regard to the second bomb site, and they didn't call any witness of their own for that topic. Did Conrad not have any more urgent questions to ask? Reading between the lines is obviously necessary.

Conrad's questions are related to the topography of the crime scene and which people were there at what time. She points out weaknesses and contradictions of the footage of the second bomb site, especially the Forum video. As I have outlined in previous blog entries, the authenticity of the Forum video is highly questionable. Conrad behaves as if she is aware of other footage not compatible to the government's material. But she doesn't dig deep, only intimates, like a cat playing with a mouse, not hurting it, but giving it no chance to escape.

This enables certain inferences about the defense strategy. This cross-examination looks rather like a little veiled message of strength to the government than a closing address for the second bomb site complex.

The time of the following blogs of David Boeri and Kelley Tuthill is reversed, i.e. they have to be read from the bottom up. They start shortly before Weinreb ends his questioning.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Did the government cut out 10 crucial seconds from the Forum video?

The so-called "Forum video" is the prosecution's supposed core evidence against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. All the accusations regarding radicalization, bomb building, or the boat confession would be worthless without video evidence that he placed his bag at the place where the second bomb exploded.

It should therefore be in the interest of the prosecution to handle this crucial piece in an open way to avoid any smell of secrecy. In fairness to Tsarnaev, whose life the prosecution wants to take away, the video should be available to the public in unredacted form, from a few minutes before the blast to a few minutes after the blast.

Unfortunately, this hasn't happened. The video was kept hidden from the public until the begin of the trial. The first clip was shown to the jury on March 4th, 2015, the second day of testimonies. It was available to the public a little bit later (Source). But this version of the video covers only the time before the blast and ends half a second after; the aftermath was at that time only documented by a few stills.

The jury had to wait until April 6th to see a continous version of the video, with pre-blast footage, the blast itself, and a few seconds of the aftermath without any cut. This was at least the perception of some observers. They were apparently wrong.

According to jane24, who is a regular attendant of the trial since the pre-trial phase and whose accurate reports fixate many details which would have gone by the board otherwise (the longest sidebar in history), the clip was probably not uncut. jane24 vouches for having noticed a discrepancy in the clip: before the blast, about fifteen people were on the Forum's patio in the foreground, cheering the runners. After the flash of the explosion had settled and the screen cleared, the patio was emptied: all the people had suddenly vanished.

Here is a snapshot, taken fractions of a second before the blast:

Forum video immediately before the blast

The people on the patio certainly needed a few seconds to flee the location. And in the very last frames of the available online Forum video (not in the video shown at court on April 6th!) there are indeed the outlines of some people visible after the flash:

Forum video immediately after the blast

In the video clip shown to the jury on April 6th, jane24 claims, there are no people on the patio anymore. Conclusio: the video re-starts  about 10-20 seconds after the blast, after people have left the patio, and the missing seconds have been cut out. In other words: the government keeps withholding crucial evidence from jury and public for whatever reason.

10 seconds removed, is this really a big deal? Yes it is, because as I have argued here, the very first seconds after an explosion are most important for determining its epicenter by comparing the pre-blast and post-blast location of people. A 10-second gap makes this determination much more complicated because people might have moved and changed their location meanwhile.

But maybe the aggravated determination of the epicenter is exactly what the government intended to achieve by cutting off the 10 seconds.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Do the Tsarnaev defense's last-minute photos bear proof of innocence?

In this article I will introduce the possibility that the defense is in possession of incontrovertible proof of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's innocence. In a follow-up article, I will present a candidate for this proof.

March 31th, 2015 was probably the most remarkable day in the Tsarnaev trial so far. Unfortunately, Boston's journalist elite like Laurel Sweet, Kevin Cullen, David Boeri and the team Boeri/Cullen failed in their duty to inform the public objectively and omitted completely an incident which observers label as "the longest sidebar in history".

What happened? After the testimony of the fourth witness, attorney Judy Clarke announced that the defense had no more witnesses to call and only wanted to show the jury a couple of photos - without witness - before resting their case. This prompted an immediate objection by the prosecution and entailed a long-lasting series of sidebars and recesses before the judge finally declined the photos to be shown for procedural reasons (because of the lacking witness). After that, the defense rested.

Jane24 attended the trial on this day and has compiled a detailed chronology of the incident. I have gathered some tweets (see appendix) to reflect the vibes that came along with it. Bottom line: the defense was not successful with its request, yet seemed to be much more happy with the outcome than the prosecution. This is an obvious paradox, and I will express a possible solution now.

The first salient point is that the defense could easily have avoided the procedural problems by presenting the photos through a witness. This would have been usual business and render an objection impossible.

An immediate corollary is that either the defense made a gigantic blunder - or that their main intention was not to show the photos to the jury, i.e. that it was only the pretext for achieving a different aim. The latter seems much more realistic. But what aim might that have been?

Another striking fact is that, as already mentioned, the defense was pleased with the outcome, despite failing to reach their - official - aim. So they must have reached something, probably the clandestine aim I've postulated.

One possibility is that they earned a promise to present the photos later, in the sentencing phase. But this can't have been their initial aim, because, to say it again, with an accompanying witness they could have presented the photos immediately. The defense is certainly not that unprofessional. There must be more.

I can spot only one reasonable strategy: the defense wanted to show the photos to the judge, not to the jury. There have been several matters in the past where the judge examined evidence first (in camera) before the jury got the occasion. Examples: autopsy photos, boat note. So at the sidebar negotiations, the defense might have suggested to O'Toole to have a look at the photos himself before making a decision with regard to the jury.

Judging from the defense team's displayed mood their strategy worked out, and O'Toole agreed to take a look at the photos - presumably during the after-lunch recess. It didn't matter for the Tsarnaev team that he declined to show the pictures to the jury. They had reached their inofficial aim: to serve notice on the judge.

At this point, the content of the photos comes into play. The fact that O'Toole didn't let the jury see them signifies a huge embarassment for the government. What may have caused the defense to choose such a convoluted strategy? The timing - right at the end of the guilt phase - bespeaks a carefully designed dramaturgy. There is every indication that the photos are self-explanatory and shatter the prosecution's narrative. Is it imaginable that such powerful footage exists? As I said in the introduction: yes, it is.

So why did the defense keep this evidence back during the first phase, and why do they want only the judge to know? This has, of course, to do with the political nature of the case and the widespread involvement of law enforcement in blaming Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for a crime he didn't commit. The defense team has always shied away from spectacular statements or actions and used to pursue their goal "under the radar".

From this perspective, the ball is now in O'Toole's court.

Jane24: it is obvious that it was important to the prosecution that these photographs not be shown. At least two hours were spent negotiating this issue and however it was resolved the defense seemed very happy with the outcome. The prosecution? Not so much...

Appendix - tweets from the Tsarnaev trial, March 31th, 2015


 12:30 pm - 12:35 pm  First sidebar

12:35 pm - 12:55 pm  First recess

12:55 pm - 1:00 pm  Second sidebar

1:00 pm - 2:15 pm  Second recess (lunch)

2:15 pm - 2:20 pm  Third sidebar


2:20 pm - 2:45 pm  Third recess


2:45 pm - 2:50 pm  Fourth and last sidebar