A new court filing reveals for the first time how close accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev came to dying from extensive gunshot wounds and his attempts to resist an FBI interrogation while he was handcuffed to his hospital bed.
Clinging to life from gunshot wounds to the head, face, throat, jaw, hand and legs surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s condition “suddenly declined” the moment he arrived at the hospital April 19, 2013, according to court records filed by the defense Wednesday. All night and into the next morning doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center intubated Tsarnaev to keep him alive, performed emergency surgery and gave him narcotics to dull the pain, the records say.
Twenty hours later Tsarnaev was interrogated, a process that lasted over 36 hours despite the fact that Tsarnaev “repeatedly requested a lawyer," "begged to rest” and “quickly allayed concerns about any continuing threats to public safety.”
Defense attorneys said Tsarnaev’s constitutional rights were violated and his statements should be suppressed. Prosecutors have not formally responded in court but purportedly indicated to the defense they do not plan to use any of the bedside statements at trial, which is scheduled to begin in November.
The defense argument is contained in court documents that reveal for the first time the extent of Tsarnaev’s injuries from a police shootout and what went on behind the scenes in those frantic, pivotal hours after Tsarnaev’s capture in a boat in Watertown, Mass.
According to court records the FBI began questioning Tsarnaev at 7:22 p.m. April 20, 2013. It continued on and off until 7:05 a.m. the next morning and resumed again at 5:35 p.m. until 9:00 a.m. April 22. In that time Tsarnaev was prescribed powerful pain medications Fentanyl, Propofol and Dilaudid. His left eye was sutured shut, he couldn’t hear and his jaw was wired closed.
“Mr. Tsarnaev wrote answers to questions in a notebook because he was unable to speak,” defense attorneys said in the court filing. “These notes reflect his attempt to respond to urgent questions (he assured the agents that no public safety threat remained) as well as his poor functioning and limited cognitive ability.”
“In all, he wrote the word ‘lawyer’ ten times, sometimes circling it,” but his defense attorneys said FBI agents turned away lawyers who tried to meet with Tsarnaev.
“One of the agents insisted, nonsensically, that Mr. Tsarnaev was not in custody,” the papers said.
Tsarnaev’s interrogation included questions about the pressure cooker bombs, beliefs about Islam and American foreign policy, sports, career goals and about his older brother Tamerlan who had been killed in a shootout with police.
“It is apparent that the agents falsely told him that Tamerlan was alive,” defense attorney said. “One of Mr. Tsarnaev’s notes reads: “Is my brother alive I know you said he is are you lying Is he alive?”
Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to a number of terrorism charges related to the April 15, 2013 bombs that killed three and injured more than 260 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
In a separate motion defense attorneys asked the judge to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional.
“The vulnerability of this particular death penalty prosecution to Eighth Amendment challenge is all the greater in light of recent legal authority and scholarship that cast doubt on the power of the federal government to impose the death penalty in states, like Massachusetts, that have abolished it,” they said.