The United States of America vs. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
The alleged Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty in his opening trial on Wednesday. He faces about 30 federal charges, originally only two: the use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and malicious destruction of property with an explosive resulting in death.
The Boston Marathon explosion killed 3 people and injured over 260. Dzhokhar was arrested on April 15, 2013. He is a 19 year old self-proclaimed Jihadist Muslim of Chechen descent. On April 22, while critically injured, and before being read his Miranda rights, Dzhokhar confessed to the bombing, his brother recruiting him, the information they obtained from al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine and their justification in hatred against America because of its involvement in killing Muslims.
The FBI made the decision not to read Dzhokhar his rights initially citing the “public safety exception.” At the time, it was unknown how big the scope of the attack(s) was, if others were involved or if there were pending attacks on the public, for example. In this case, there was an apparent and legitimate case for this exception. Nevertheless, this will likely be an issue for the defense. In any case, Dzhokhar is now using a “not guilty” plea in contrast to his earlier confession.
The pre-Miranda confession is very likely admissible, but even in the case that it is not, there remains a truckloads worth of evidence and testimony against Dzhokhar in the bombing as well as the attacks that followed, including: stacks of video camera footage; personal belongings and explosives at the dormitory, the carjacked victim that identified the perpetrators and overheard their proud confession of the bombing; the shootout with police officers and then there is the final arrest of Dzhokhar in a trailered boat in the back of a resident’s house.
There are likely to be somewhere from 80 to 100 witnesses, according to the prosecution. An affidavit from FBI Special Agent Daniel R. Genck was the first official criminal complaint on file. He gives a chronological report citing much of the evidence against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
In spite of a well-documented and public following, there were a few that were still championing his innocence on Wednesday. Outside Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston, where Dzhokhar is being tried, a small group of supporters chanted “Justice for Dzhokhar.” Some protested that the Boston Bombing was a conspiracy of the American government.
Dzhokhar is a naturalized American citizen. If indicted, he could face the death penalty for 17 of the 30 charges. The next court hearing is scheduled for September 23.