After the 2013 Boston marathon bombings, the FBI questioned suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in his hospital bed without a lawyer present for hours. That, according to court documents filed on Wednesday by the suspect's legal team, amounts to the FBI violating his rights. Tsarnaev was questioned for 36 hours before anyone read him his Miranda rights, following a lengthy manhunt for the suspect and his brother after the deadly attacks.
The FBI could have justified that pre-Miranda interrogation by citing a public safety exception, but the issue of whether that questioning, even if it was constitutional, should be allowed in a trial is another matter. According to the L.A. Times, Tsarnaev's defense team asked U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to suppress any of the statements he made to law enforcement officials during that hospital questioning. His legal team wrote (via the Boston Globe):
“In all, he wrote the word lawyer 10 times, sometimes circling it,” the lawyers said. “At one point, he wrote: ‘I am tired. Leave me alone.’ . . . His pen or pencil then trails off the page, suggesting that he either fell asleep, lost motor control, or passed out.”"
Tsarnaev's lawyers also pointed out that the suspect was on heavy pain medication, and recovering from a gunshot wound, following his arrest and hospitalization. Because his jaw was wired shut, Tsarnaev communicated in written statements. "Despite the fact that he quickly allayed concerns about any continuing threat to public safety, repeatedly asked for a lawyer, and begged to rest," his lawyers wrote, the questioning continued. "Agents made clear by word and deed that they would not allow him to see a lawyer until they had finished questioning him," they added.
Tsarnaev's legal team made another request on Wednesday: that Judge O'Toole strike down the Federal Death Penalty Act, both because of Oklahoma's recent botched executions, and because Massachusetts has abolished the death penalty. Tsarnaev's trial is a federal trial, however, meaning that he is still eligible for federal capital punishment.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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