Did the Government Compromise its Case by Refusing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Requests for a Lawyer?
The hold on the public’s mind of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s supposed confession to interrogators that he and his brother indeed carried out the Boston bombings is strong. (It is not usually noticed that we only have the FBI’s word on whatever Tsarnaev said under the interrogation, and that it was carried out under problematic medical conditions that actual doctors have not clarified.) Thus even FDL’s crack journalist Kevin Gosztola slipped up yesterday and spoke of “the attack by Dhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev” without employing the word “alleged.”
But somewhat buried in a report by the Los Angeles Times filed last Thursday, not widely noticed until yesterday, is a revelation by a person identified as “a senior congressional aide” that “Tsarnaev had asked several times for a lawyer” during the interrogation, although “that request was ignored since he was being questioned under the public safety exemption to the Miranda rule.”
bmaz (h/t fatster) gives an intricate discussion of how the refusal of Tsarnaev’s request flies in the face of precedent, and Glenn Greenwald (h/t yellowsnapdragon) expands on the point with some eloquence (going to the length of quoting Tom Paine in an update today). But I want to take the occasion to suggest that the denial of the request explains why the FBI has been frantically seeking out further evidence, to the point of carrying off bags of material from the home of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow’s family’s home way down in Rhode Island yesterday. (It is being widely reported today that female DNA has been found on some of the explosive material, but that could have come from any hardware store employee.)
Namely, although I thought in a post last Wednesday that this furious activity was pursued because the FBI did not trust the interrogation’s finding that the brothers acted alone, it now looks to me like what they don’t trust is that the results of the interrogation would stand up in court should this case ever come to trial. (I actually doubt that it will, since too much dirty government linen would inevitably be aired, although that’s not the point here.) They are rather desperately seeking to build a case out of what is inevitably circumstantial evidence.
For reasons detailed here (with comment #146), I simply do not believe the government’s account of the events in Boston between Monday, April 15 and people not under government control entering Tsarnaev’s hospital room on Monday, April 22. But the FBI may not entirely believe it either.
Update 3:30 PM Eastern. I should have said that one of the points noted in comment #146 of the last post, “that it is surprising that 200 rounds from the police didn’t kill the suspects” (originally raised by stratocruiser) has been challenged. At comment #160 db says he(?) believes it possible based on his knowledge of a similar event in his home town.
Update May 1 8:30 AM Eastern. db corrects the above statement and offers further clarification at comment #38 below.