Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: 17 Months Later

It has been 17 months since the public has seen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. At the request of prosecutors, he will make his first court appearance since July, 2013 this week. I wrote a long post on his incredibly restrictive jail conditions back in April, 2013, describing the SAMS ("special administrative measures") imposed on him.

Yahoo News has a detailed update, which I highly recommend reading. [More...]

First, as to why prosecutors asked for him to attend:

While Tsarnaev is not required to attend the Dec. 18 hearing, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Boston, who are handling the case, specifically requested that he attend. They argued it would be his last opportunity to state whether he has any problems with his case or attorneys before the trial formally begins — and they say his concerns should be raised now, as opposed to on appeal.

It's been so long since anyone has written about him (as opposed to the bombing or legal filings), I think a refresher is in order. The quotes below are all from today's Yahoo article.

His injuries, which Yahoo reports are taken from a defense filing:

[He suffered] gunshot wounds to his head, face, throat, jaw, left hand and both legs." Within minutes of arrival, Tsarnaev's "mental status suddenly declined," and doctors had to perform an emergency tracheotomy to keep him alive. One of the shots had fractured the base of Tsarnaev's skull, and his attorneys, citing hospital records, said another gunshot "likely caused traumatic brain injury… Damage to the cranial nerves required his left eye be sutured shut; his jaw was wired closed and injures to his left ear left him unable to hear on that side."

On his conditions and SAMS:

Tsarnaev is allowed to write one letter — three pages, double sided — and to make one phone call per calendar week to his immediate family. His letters are read, and the calls are recorded by federal officials.

His family is prohibited from discussing the telephone calls or recording them.

He is not allowed to speak to the media. The rules allow him to have a TV or radio, but he has neither. Newspapers are edited to cut out ads and letters to the editor to prevent the chance they include coded messages.

If his sisters visit, an FBI agent must sit in on the visit. He is not permitted to have any contact with other inmates. The only human contact he has at the prison is with jail staff, who pass his meals through a slot in in his cell door. He is in his cell 24 hours a day, except for an hour on weekdays, when he is allowed to go to small outdoor enclosure for exercise, "weather permitting."

The original SAMs are here, and the defense argument against them is here and here.

This is not humane treatment. The SAMS are unnecessarily punitive, and Tsarnaev has not yet been convicted of a crime. SAMS were designed to protect against a “substantial risk” of death or serious bodily injury. They have been imposed against those alleged to be active members of Al Qaeda and other organized terrorist groups with global reach, and drug dealers who have ordered killings from prison. His lawyers say he has no external ties, no history of inciting violence while detained, and has been a model prisoner.

If convicted, Tsarnaev will die in prison. Whether he gets a life sentence or is executed, he only comes out in a pine box. That should be enough. The severe isolation imposed by these prison conditions is psychological torture and beyond the pale.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Y'know, Counselor, that photograph (none / 0) (#1)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 04:14:42 PM EST
    of the cells, which shows how small they are, and the knowledge that such a tiny room comprises the entire range of motion, the only remaining world, for whomever is caged therein, is sheer horror.