Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, made his woes worsen with damaging statements this week during a prison visit with his sister that could potentially damage his defense. According to court documents filed on Friday, the Boston bombing suspect could not restrain himself from making detrimental remarks in the presence of his sister, an investigator employed by the Federal public defender assigned to his case, and a FBI agent, who was lawfully allowed access to monitor Tsarnaev’s interactions, under the special administrative measures in which Tsarnaev is being held. Specific details regarding the remarks made were not included in court filings, but prosecutors are objecting to attempts by Tsarnaev’s defense to suppress it. This latest filing is part of an ongoing battle between the defense and prosecution over the special prison restrictions which are being imposed on Tsarnaev.
In a recent court filing last week, Tsarnaev’s defense counsel alleged the FBI has been monitoring the Boston bombing suspect in order to prepare their case against him and that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has attempted to screen documents the defense team has brought into the prison to review with Tsarnaev, which is in direct violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights to prepare his defense without government interference.
Tsarnaev, 20, is accused of a myriad of federal charges stemming from the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing attacks that left three dead and more than 260 injured. In addition, he also faces state charges related to the April 18 death of a MIT police officer involved in the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him and is being held without bail at a federal prison facility in Devens, MA. His trial is scheduled to begin on November 3.
To make his woes worsen, the remarks made by Tsarnaev, which could be viewed as detrimental to the Boston bombing suspect’s case, were made when the investigator working for his defense team attempted to explain the reasoning behind the special restrictions being imposed on the bombing suspect while in detention to Tsarnaev’s sister. Due to the assigned FBI agent’s vantage point and proximity in order to monitor Tsarnaev’s interactions, the remarks were overheard by the agent. Tsarnaev’s defense counsel has subsequently filed a motion to have these special administrative measures lifted and the government detailed the conversation in question as part of their opposition to the motion.
In a separate filing on Friday, Tsarnaev’s defense team moved to dismiss several of the charges against him arguing that many of the charges are repetitive and the sheer number of charges could motivate jurors to find him guilty and possibly sentence him to death. Prosecutors have stated they will seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev for the crimes he allegedly committed, which include use of a weapon of mass destruction among 30 other federal charges. Noting that capital charges account for more than half of the 30 charges against Tsarnaev, his lawyers contend that the scales of justice are already weighted against him. It has been suggested that the defense will attempt to spare the bombing suspect’s life by asserting that he fell under the influence of his elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed by police during the manhunt. Judy Clarke, one of the nation’s foremost death penalty attorneys, is part of Tsarnaev’s defense team and she filed this particular motion on behalf of her client.
Additionally, his lawyers contend that the restrictive measures placed on the bombing suspect have limited his ability to interact with people responsible for mounting his defense. Moreover, his attorneys claim that this request is not new nor does it have anything to do with Tsarnaev’s recent remarks. Instead, they have said they feel the special restrictions are unwarranted and have impeded their defense of Tsarnaev from the beginning. For instance, the FBI presence during prison visits has prevented the defense from cultivating important mitigating information. These details the defense seeks have been determined to be admissible mitigation evidence and could include details on family history and dysfunction, mental illness, and traumas incurred by the defendant growing up.
Prosecutors contend that the special restrictions imposed on Tsarnaev are necessary and justified given his “commitment to jihad” and notoriety in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, and this will only worsen the suspect’s woes. In addition, they argue there is a continued risk of violence and terrorism in regard to Tsarnaev. They claim his remarks are fair game as there is no expectation of privacy for the suspect, his family, or investigators during the prison visits under the special administrative measures which have been placed on him. If the prosecution does prevail in their opposition to having Tsarnaev’s special restrictions lifted and his recent remarks suppressed, it could prove problematic for his defense moving forward. However, until the exact nature and content of the suspect’s remarks are revealed, whether or not they could potentially damage the Boston bombing case remains unknown.
By Leigh Haugh
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