Boston Marathon Trial: Opening Statements and Motions

Voir dire-what seemed like a never-ending process has come to an end. On February 25th, a court official advised media via e-mail that 70 qualified jurors were selected and that peremptory challenges will begin on Monday, March 2. By the end of that process, the total number of potential jurors will have been whittled down to 18. Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, March 4 at 9:00 am.

While it is impossible to know what we might hear during opening statements and throughout the trial, we do know what we might not hear; or rather, we know what the defense hopes to keep under wraps–the same stuff that the government hopes to bring to light during the trial.

In a motion filed on May 7, 2014 submitted by Tsarnaev’s attorneys, the defense requested that the statements Tsarnaev made to law enforcement agents during his stay at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center be excluded, describing the statements as “involuntary,” (1) and exempt from the “public safety exception,” (2) and therefore a violation of his right to “due process.” (1)

In a 21-page motion, the defense claims that, due to his injuries, Tsarnaev was incapable of submitting to the interview. Those injuries included multiple gunshot wounds that resulted in  “damage to cranial nerves [that] required that his left eye be sutured shut; his jaw was wired closed; and injuries to his left ear left him unable to hear on that side.” (3-4) Unable to speak due to the numerous wounds, Tsarnaev answered the agents’ questions by writing notes. Some of the statements attributed to Tsarnaev include the following: “I’m exhausted,” “Can we do this later?” (5) “You said you were gonna let me sleep,” (5) “Is my brother alive I know you said he is are you lying? Is he alive? One person can tell you that.” (5)

The government fired back on May 21, 2014, in a document titled “Government’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Statements.” In the 29-page document, the government stated a number of reasons that Tsarnaev’s statements should not be suppressed. They write that “The fact that Tsarnaev was in the hospital recovering from bullet wounds does not mean the interview was coercive or that the agents who conducted it did anything wrong,” (1) and that the government should be allowed to use the statements for “impeachment or rebuttal purposes.” (2) The document also includes the note Tsarnaev allegedly wrote while hiding in the boat during the manhunt. The government claims that the note gave them reason to believe that a terrorist group might be involved and ready to attack. Later on in the document, it reads: “In sum the government did nothing wrong…” (28)

Unsurprisingly, both motions are compelling and only time will tell what comes up during the trial. But it’s looking like this will happen sooner rather than later–barring any further delays.

You can find both motions in their entirety by clicking on the following links:




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March 3, 2015