On October 2, 2013, Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team submitted a request that the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) be removed from their client. These measures severely restrict his communication. His lawyers, William Fick, Miriam Conrad and Judy Clarke, argue in court papers that the measures create “obstacles” that have a “dramatic chilling effect on the defense team’s ability to prepare a thorough and vigorous defense.”
“His lawyers also said Tsarnaev has done nothing during his incarceration to warrant such restrictions or to suggest he is dangerous, nor is there evidence the attack was “directed by others still at large or that Mr. Tsarnaev ever had operational authority to direct the activities of others” to whom he may want to communicate,” reports CNN.
The SAMs were put into place on August 27, at the request of notoriously dirty player US prosecutor Carmen Oritz four months after he was put in prison awaiting trial. Under the SAMs, Tsarnaev is detained in a single cell and may not communicate with other inmates. He may not engage in group prayer with other inmates, and his access to newspapers and other publications is restricted.
The reason stated by US prosecutors for these additional restrictions is that the 20 year old, who was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, received over 1000 letters of support while in prison. The government alleges that Tsarnaev committed the bombing because he wanted to engage in jihad, and therefore any communication with the outside world could result in him encouraging others to commit acts of violence.
Defense lawyers say the SAMs limit Tsarnaev’s interactions with individuals assisting defense counsel and restrict the communications and other activities of the defense team. Under these new restrictions, he was not allowed to look at photos of his family that his lawyer had brought him. Defense counsel first learned of the SAMs on Friday, August 30, 2013, after members of the defense team were denied entrance to FMC Devens for a previously-scheduled and approved visit with Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev’s defense argues that SAMs are unlawful and unwarranted. “The government has provided scant factual support for its conclusory assertion that SAMs are required now, more than four months into Mr. Tsarnaev’s already highly restrictive pretrial confinement, in order to protect others from ‘death or serious bodily injury.’ The government has not alleged that Mr. Tsarnaev has done or said anything since his arrest to commit violence, incite violence, or engage in communications that pose a security threat. Moreover, the SAMs violate the First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Court therefore should declare that the SAMs are unlawful and order that they be vacated.”
The Attorney General may issue an order for SAMs based upon a finding of “reasonable suspicion” that an “inmate may use communications with attorneys or their agents to further or facilitate acts of terrorism.” Holder okayed the restrictions based on “Tsarnaev’s participation in planning and executing the Boston Marathon bombings; his ensuing acts of violence and flight to avoid apprehension; his extensive obstruction of justice; and his explicit and continuing desire to incite others to engage in violent jihad.”
It is indeed worrying that the Attorney General is assuming guilt before trial, as well as claiming to know the intentions of the suspect, which have not been stated in any public forum. There is really no evidence that the suspect had any jihad-focused mindset prior to the bombing. This claim is based on unsubstantiated and unrecorded statements made by the FBI based on hospital bed interrogations without any lawyer present. Prosecutors claim that “Tsarnaev has openly said he was inspired by al Qaeda, and he hopes his actions inspired others.”
Defense lawyers said that Tsarnaev had not responded to any of the mail that he received and should not be punished for receiving mail he had no control over.
“The government also fails to mention that none of this unsolicited mail could be characterized as ‘jihadist’ in nature. Rather, it consisted almost entirely of letters and cards from individuals who believe he is innocent and people urging him to repent and convert to Christianity.”
Tsarnaev’s defense lawyers argued that there is no evidence their client has inspired violence or that he would try to inspire further violence. They said the restrictions unduly put him in near isolation, affecting his mental health, and interfere with their ability to properly prepare a legal defense, reports Milton Valencia in the Boston Globe.
Under US Department of Justice guidelines, US Attorney General Eric Holder will ultimately decide whether to seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev. Prosecutors had planned to make a recommendation to Holder by Oct. 31, and they gave Tsarnaev’s lawyers until Oct. 24 to make a presentation on “mitigating factors,” arguments why Tsarnaev should not be subject to the death penalty. Last month, Tsarnaev’s lawyers asked O’Toole to postpone the deadline. They also filed a separate request asking the judge to order prosecutors to turn over the information.
US District Court Judge George O’Toole complied with the US attorney request by rejecting Tsarnaev’s lawyers’ request to postpone deadlines set by prosecutors, saying that he has no authority to grant such a request. So basically, the death penalty is being argued even before the prosecution has turned in its evidence.
On October 16, Senator Chuck Grassley called for detailed answers to questions regarding FBI involvement in the Boston case. It appears the FBI had been operating without consulting with local police, and that the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier took place while the campus was swarming with FBI agents.
Blogger B. Blake comments: “With the Collier murder charge against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appearing weaker by the day, point blank refusals to comment are becoming increasingly frowned upon. The evidence purporting to demonstrate Tsarnaev’s complicity in the crime is extremely flawed with many now asking why he was ever charged with the crime in the first place.”