Attorneys for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have asked a federal judge to ease restrictions placed on him, claiming the restraints are too harsh and that they hinder his legal team’s ability to prepare his defense in time.
“The restrictions on Mr. Tsarnaev leave him in nearly total isolation,” stated a motion filed on Wednesday by his lawyers in the U.S. District Court in South Boston. “He is confined to his cell except for legal visits and very limited access to a small outdoor enclosure, on weekdays, weather permitting. The purported basis for these conditions lies in the crimes he is alleged to have committed prior to arrest, not any behavior during his confinement.”
Tsarnaev is being held at a prison medical center in Ayer. Within the Wednesday memo was a document that announced U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder implemented Special Administrative Measures on Tsarnaev on Aug. 27. The measures mean there is a substantial risk that if Tsarnaev communicates with people, it could result in death or serious injury to others.
The attorneys said the restrictions are “effectively punitive” and violate the due process guarantee clause in the Constitution.
“The negative effects of isolation on detainees are well-documented,” the motion stated. “Indeed, the United Nations identifies long-term solitary confinement as a form of torture. Inmates may not be subjected to unnecessarily harsh and isolating conditions of confinement.”
The defense attorneys said there was no factual basis for the restrictions, the ban on non-legal communication with anybody infringes on freedom of speech, and the restriction on group prayer infringes on his freedom of religion, the motion stated.
“The government has not made any persuasive showing why these restrictions are necessary, nor has it demonstrated that less restrictive alternatives would not suffice,” the attorneys said in the motion.
Tsarnaev, 20, is faced with more than 30 charges for allegedly causing two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 with his brother Tamerlan. The explosions killed three people and injured more than 260.
He is also charged with allegedly killing Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department office Sean Collier when he and his brother attempted to escape law enforcement officials after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released their photos on April 18.
Tamerlan was killed that night after a shootout with police, and Dzhokhar was captured the next day when he was caught hiding in a boat in Watertown after a prolonged manhunt.
Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to all charges against him during his arraignment on July 10. He could potentially receive the death penalty.
Holder claimed Tsarnaev disposed of key evidence after the attack.
“Tsarnaev employed operational tradecraft in communicating during the time leading up to the bombing (including purchasing a dedicated cell phone to communicate with respect to the bombings), and in disposing of evidence after the attack, including discarding a remaining bomb detonator and smashing his cell phones,” the memo stated.
Holder also claimed that Tsarnaev told FBI agents after he was arrested that he remained committed to jihad and expressed that he hoped his actions would inspire others to commit acts of violent jihad.
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were directly provoked to detonate the two bombs during the marathon by the death of Anwar Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011, and they used bomb-making instructions from an Al-Qaeda publication called ‘Inspire,’ according to the memo.
Prosecutors said if Tsarnaev’s case goes to trial, it could last three to four months, and the defense could expect 85 to 100 witnesses.