Defense team requests records before presentation to Holder

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might face the death penalty.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might face the death penalty.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, repeatedly requested a lawyer when he was being questioned at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center following his arrest in Watertown, according to court documents filed Monday in federal court in Boston.

What took place after the requests remains unclear, and lawyers for Tsarnaev have asked a judge to order prosecutors to turn over any records about what happened as a result of the requests, including e-mail exchanges between law enforcement officials, saying they could be used in Tsarnaev’s defense. He was arrested on Friday, April 19, but he was not appointed lawyers and did not see a judge until that following Monday.

“It is not known whether Mr. Tsarnaev’s requests for counsel from his hospital bed were ever communicated to the court,” his lawyers said in a filing made Monday, adding that they would want to look into whether any information from the “interrogation of Mr. Tsanaev tainted the recovery of other evidence.”


The defense team is seeking the information and other records as it prepares to make a presentation to US Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. in opposition to the death penalty. Holder will decide whether to seek the death penalty, and will consider arguments from the prosecution and defense.

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Prosecutors have refused to turn over some of the information the defense is seeking. The prosecutors have said in court that they are required to follow only evidence rules for a trial and are not required to aid the defense in its death penalty presentation.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers also asked for, among other records, information related to interviews with Tsarnaev’s friends and family members, as well as any records related to law enforcement surveillance of and interviews with Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, before the bombings. The FBI was reportedly contacted by Russian authorities who suspected Tamerlan of possible terrorism activity. Tamerlan was killed in a gun battle in Watertown days after the bombings.

The defense team is also seeking records related to the FBI interview of Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan and a suspect in a Waltham triple murder, who was later shot and killed by an FBI agent.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@