This Passed for Eye-Witness Testimony? More transcript analysis from the Boston Marathon show trial

Mary Maxwell recently gave a talk at the Watertown public library, presenting the facts of the Boston Marathon bombing case the way a real (as in not Clarke) defense attorney should have and would have presented them at a real (as in not a show) trial. I applauded her courage when I first learned of her plan to host the event; I ended up amazed by her patience when she did so.

A man showed up dressed in a track suit claiming to be Watertown police officer John MacLellan. I don’t know if he was one of the boys in blue shooting his firearm on Laurel Street that April night, but he sure was shooting his mouth off in the library.

He claimed to have testified at the trial so I looked him up.  The name he gave was indeed on the government’s preliminary witness list. However, of all the transcripts now in the public domain, I found none that contained testimony from an Officer John MacLellan.

So that sent me back to the video Mary Maxwell made of her talk. I wanted to listen a bit more closely to what this man had to say.

I found the officer to be defensive and somewhat disrespectful. It especially raised my ire when he told Mary that “I did testify; maybe you should do your homework” after Mary gently challenged him with a reasonable question.

Apparently Officer John MacLellan thinks he is now a household name and the reality check Mary quite innocently gave him was just too much. His snotty response reminded me of the old offended celebrity retort “Don’t you know who I am?”

At one point Mary asked him to state, for those assembled, two things he had testified to at the trial. That was a good move on Mary’s part.  But before the officer could respond, another attendee who already had the mic interrupted. I swear this other person seemed to be channeling the character played by Mel Gibson in “The Pelican Brief.”  Unfortunately, thanks in part to him, the opportunity to hear if and what Officer MacLellan might have responded was lost.

A few things MacLellan volunteered were of special interest:

He said a girl coming home from a night class at MIT actually witnessed the Tsarnaev brothers murder Sean Collier. He said she actually saw the assassination by the two men – meaning Dzhokhar and Tamerlan. Imagine that!

According to Officer MacLellan, after the frightened girl’s father called to report what his daughter said she’d seen, the police sent a car to her house to pick her up and bring her to Cambridge for questioning. MacLellan ended his unlikely tale by saying that while the car was enroute, the shootout in Watertown happened.


He spoke as if that should be the end of it. What? Did I miss something here? A shootout happens and you want people to believe it is for that reason that you never return to the interrupted task of interviewing an extremely important and possibly sole witness to a cop killing?

That makes no sense because of something else Officer MacLellan said at the library: that this same girl actually lived A COUPLE HUNDRED YARDS FROM THE POLICE STATION!!

So tell me again why this supposed sole witness to a cop killing who lived A COUPLE HUNDRED YARDS FROM THE POLICE STATION was actually picked up by a patrol car to be taken to the Cambridge (or any other) police station but was prevented when a shootout happened in Watertown, not Cambridge?

First of all, which station did she live a couple hundred yards from – Cambridge or Watertown? Secondly, why does it matter where she is taken to give her statement? She could have given her statement at her house. She could have given her statement at either police station, preferably at the one she lives a couple hundred yards from…

A lawyer in the crowd at the library said it best regarding why this supposed witness to Collier’s murder never gave testimony at the trial: “She wasn’t credible – end of story.”

I’d say the same about why I never found a transcript of testimony from Officer John MacLellan – he’s not believable either.

Remember the Podstava video? Mary showed it in order to challenge this officer’s claim that he was one of the officers who tackled Tamerlan to the ground before the Mercedes SUV driven by Dzhokhar supposedly ran over him. Another brilliant move on her part.

MacLellan insisted he watched Tamerlan bleed to death. And he had some rather interesting things to say about the ” naked man” incident. MacLellan was adamant that “naked man” was not Tamerlan. He said they questioned him and let him go – when he, Officer MacLellan gave the order.

But, according to Officer MacLellan, it was not the Watertown PD but what he referred to as “an outside agency” who was responsible for ordering the detained man to remove his clothes. When Mary reacted to that with an air of disbelief, which I shared, he was forced to clarify that “outside agency” meant Boston PD or state police. He claimed he wasn’t present when the man was forced to disrobe.

When he threw in that they were trying to contact “naked man” afterwards to apologize, I had to laugh. Really? With everything else that was going on that week?

Maybe that’s why they didn’t have the time or presence of mind to get back with that all-important eye witness to Officer Collier’s murder – they were more worried about having offended someone they stripped naked on a public street.


Funny though how someone did have the presence of mind to destroy Collier’s cruiser, i.e. the crime scene…

When I returned to the transcripts with this officer’s claims in mind, I found what I was seeking, but it was not associated with the name Officer John MacLellan:

Day 33, March 16th, the testimony of James Floyd, address: 56 Laurel Street, Watertown, Mass.

So the prosecution chose to put on the witness stand not a police officer who was at the scene of the shootout, (so he says), but James Floyd, a sleep-deprived new father with a wife, a three-week-old son and a big plum tree in his yard.

He testified to being asleep on the couch with his newborn son when the noise of gunfire outside woke him up.

Going to the first-floor living room window he says he looked out, saw, not heard gunfire, which I thought was odd, “and people to my right, which would have been to the west and sort of underneath where the tree was.” At that point Floyd went for his newborn son and hustled upstairs to his wife and the safety of the second floor.

Q.  “Now on the second floor, is there any obstruction of your view by the plum tree?”

A.  “It’s a plum tree. At the time it was blooming pretty good and SO I COULDN’T REALLY SEE A LOT… DOWNSTAIRS, I COULD KIND OF SEE – I didn’t have to look through the tree. But once I was ON THE SECOND FLOOR, IT WAS KINDA HARD TO SEE THROUGH THE TREES at exactly what was going on down there.”

Isn’t that incredible? Why put this guy on the witness stand at all when with the prosecution’s own question they got him to admit he could hardly see anything he was testifying to having seen. I’ve come to realize this is what happens in a show trial.

So Floyd states he can kinda see downstairs, but upstairs, where he spent the most time, he could hardly see at all. Then, inexplicably, this same witness eventually reverses his own testimony.

Q.  “All right. So when you first looked out, and you saw – well, tell me what you saw.”

A.  “When I was downstairs and I looked out, I saw guns firing and people screaming. And that was to my right. And then I basically stopped and got the kid and I ran upstairs. SO I DIDN’T SEE MUCH AT THAT TIME. Then when we got upstairs, we looked for a more extended period.”

Upon further examination by Nadine Pellegrini, James Floyd admits he couldn’t tell if anyone outside was in uniform, although he could see the blue lights of police cars:

A.  “The only thing I could say for sure is I saw blue lights.”

Q.  “Blue lights?”

A.  “So there was that assumption, that someone was in uniform.”

Good word choice, in my opinion. However, credible testimony is not based on assumptions.

Floyd continues, without being asked another question – a trend to which the defense does eventually object.

A.  “But which one, who was firing, no, I couldn’t see any of that.”

Q.  “When you got upstairs and you were able to look out the second-floor window, what did you see?”

A.  “So out of the second-floor window, I COULD SEE A LOT BETTER and it…”

There’s the reversal of his previous statements. He then goes on to give more shaky testimony:

A. “SEEMINGLY, they had things with them and they kept going back to the ground to grab things.”

Q.  “What do you mean?”

A.  “It SEEMED LIKE MAYBE they had a bag of things that they were going to – I DON’T KNOW whether it was ammunition.”

Q.  “And with respect to the two individuals, was there any way that you could differentiate between the two!”

A.  “NO.”

This vague, useless testimony continues until Pellegrini ends with this:

Q.  “Now, Mr. Floyd, as you sit here today, is it your memory that, in fact, the person you saw do the underhand movement and throw the container that made the big blast was the same person who drove the Mercedes back down the street toward the police officer?”

Remember Floyd never testified he actually saw police officers…

A.  “Absolutely, without question.”

Q.  “I’m sorry. Say it again.”

Was Pelegrini listening to her IPod or something?

A.  “Without question it was the same person.”

Pellegrini: “Thank you. I have no further questions.”

Sadly, neither did the defense.

Let us not forget, however, that although this witness testified that the person who threw the container and drove the Mercedes was the same person, he NEVER testified that person was, in fact, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

And no one called him on it. That was left to us.












4 thoughts on “This Passed for Eye-Witness Testimony? More transcript analysis from the Boston Marathon show trial”

  1. Good post Lynn! MacLellan was a witness at the trial, but his story was a lot different than what he said at the Watertown library. There he said he saw Tamerlan, was on top of him, saw him-dead, but at trial he said Tamerlan was very combatant on the scene. Also in the ambulance and at the hospital according to an EMT who also testified at the trial, so MacLellan is simply a liar, just like most if not all who testified for the prosecution. The trial was too disgraceful for words. The public need to know these things. Looking forward to your next post.

    1. I could not find the transcript of MacLellan’s testimony on any website. If you have it could you send it to me – I’d love to read it.

  2. Appalling that any jury could have convicted anyone with this useless testimony and lack of evidence. The jurors should be consumed with shame and guilt for sending an innocent man to his death. Boston was so hyped up that people were afraid to use reason for fear of retribution from family, friends and neighbors. A sham trial in every respect.

    1. So true Susan! I want those jurors names published like they should have been long ago! Let them answer for their complicity in the terrible injustice done to Dzhokhar.

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