Understanding that their client faces the realistic possibility of execution, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers, now including death penalty expert Judy Clarke, are reported by NBC News to have hustled into discussions with the government to take capital punishment off the table in exchange for Tsarnaev's cooperation.
I was a federal prosecutor for a long time. I was also, at one point, a member of White House Counsel's Office concerned, as everyone in the Office is, with national security. I would not even consider this "deal."
First, it's not at all clear that Mr. Nicey has anything worthwhile to tell us. The defense story thus far is that he's nothing but the last-minute, teenage tag-along to his older brother, who did such planning as there was. Whether that's true or not, and I have no idea, there is not a single reason in the public domain to believe that Tsarnaev ever had actionable information, and still less information that hasn't become stale.
Second, so far as is known, we have not come close to exhausting other sources of information -- his friends, classmates, his brother's wife, his uncles, his computer, his correspondence, credit card statements, school records, Facebook entries, and a great deal more. Why give up something of value for information (if there is any) you can very likely get from alternative sources?
Third, with any known or even rumored exigency having passed some time ago, rushing into a deal is hardly essential (and it will get less essential as time goes by). Thus, if a deal were ever to be considered, the time to do it would be when the government is in a stronger position -- i.e., at the minimum, when the government has finished what is certain to be a powerful case at trial and little Dzhokar has to sit there waiting to see if he gets a death verdict. That will focus his attention much more directly than the off-in-the-distance threat he sees now.
Defense lawyers ceaselessly complain that plea bargaining is rigged in favor of the government. Now is the time to give them their answer: In this high stakes showdown, give no deals to this devil and let a jury do what the Framers designed it to do.