Lawyers for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect want to be able to take pictures of the 19-year-old now and over time to show evidence of his injuries and his “evolving mental and physical state,” according to a filing in federal court in Boston.
As the defense team for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argues against the death penalty, it would use the photo evidence to challenge whether he was fit enough to voluntarily provide statements to investigators just after his arrest, according to the filing.
US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler partially granted the request today. She said the US Bureau of Prisons can take the photos of Tsarnaev, rather than the lawyers themselves, citing security policy at the Fort Devens facility where he is being held.
However, Bowler agreed that the defense lawyers can be present when the photos are taken. The pictures can also be shared with prosecutors.
The full nature of the defense request was not immediately known. The defense lawyers’ request was filed in secret on May 7, though the judge shared the request with prosecutors to see if they would have objections.
According to Bowler’s order, the defense “contends that [Tsarnaev’s] injuries over time provide evidence of his evolving mental and physical state.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, allegedly planted the bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 others at the Boston Marathon finish line on the afternoon of April 15. The brothers also are accused of killing MIT Police Officer Sean Collier.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces federal charges that could bring the death penalty. He is being held at the federal medical facility in Devens, about 40 miles west of Boston.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed after a shootout with police in Watertown several days after the bombings. Authorities say he was also run over by his younger brother, who was making a desperate bid to escape police.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured later that day near the shootout scene in a boat parked in the backyard of a home. The target of a massive dragnet, he was taken into custody after a tense standoff.
Law enforcement officials said Thursday that Tsarnaev scrawled a note inside the boat that seemed to take responsibility for his role in the attack.
Tsarnaev reportedly gave statements to investigators after his arrest and leading up to his first appearance before Bowler, when defense lawyers were finally by his side. Bowler also read him his Miranda rights.
According to Bowler’s order today, the defense has argued that the evidence of his physical and mental state could challenge whether Tsarnaev was voluntarily giving statements.
They also argue that the photos of his condition now and in the future could be used as evidence in “mitigation arguments” in which he challenges the death penalty. Legal observers have said that defense lawyers are likely to cite Tsarnaev’s age in arguing against the death penalty. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia