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Wednesday 11 December 2019

Boston bombs 'had Xmas light fuses'

Christmas lights were used to fuse the Boston Marathon bombs, prosecutors say
Christmas lights were used to fuse the Boston Marathon bombs, prosecutors say

The Boston Marathon bombing suspects used "relatively sophisticated" devices with fuses made from Christmas lights and remote-control detonators made from model car parts, prosecutors have said.

The revelation came in a court filing arguing against a defence motion to throw out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's statements to FBI agents because he was questioned without a lawyer.

Prosecutors said the bombs, comments Tsarnaev and his brother made to a carjacking victim that they might explode more bombs in New York and a note Tsarnaev wrote in a boat where he was captured, made it imperative to know if there was a continuing terror threat before informing him of his rights.

Prosecutors also said the brothers used fine black powder from firecrackers as fuel for the bombs and, since none was found in searches of their homes and cars, investigators worried they had help.

"Interviewing Tsarnaev as soon as possible was therefore essential to protect the public from possible harm," prosecutors wrote, citing a public safety exception to the Miranda rule about informing suspects of their rights before interrogation if their statements are to be used in court against them.

They said Tsarnaev told agents he and his brother Tamerlan acted alone and there were no more bombs.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to several federal charges. Prosecutors say he and his brother planted two pressure cooker bombs near the marathon's finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

His brother was killed during a gun battle with police on April 19 last year, four days after the marathon bombing.

This month, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued that the statements he made to authorities after he was arrested should be thrown out because he was questioned for 36 hours in a hospital room while suffering from gunshot wounds and without being told his rights.

The lawyers said in a flurry of pretrial court filings that federal agents began questioning Tsarnaev about 20 hours after he arrived at the hospital in a critical condition and his statements could not be considered voluntary.

Federal investigators questioned him days after the deadly bombing without formally telling him of his right to a lawyer, under a public safety exception allowed when there is concern about an ongoing threat.

But defence lawyers said the questioning continued "despite the fact that he quickly allayed concerns about any continuing threat to public safety, repeatedly asked for a lawyer, and begged to rest".

They said his treatment included painkillers that impaired his judgment and increased his susceptibility to pressure.

Prosecutors, though, said that before agents questioned Tsarnaev, a nurse told them he had no brain injuries and his medication would not "inhibit his mental faculties".

They denied Tsarnaev was coerced or mistreated, saying they waited for his condition to improve before interrogating him and gave him rest breaks. They said they did not need Tsarnaev's statements to present their case against him but reserved the right to use them to rebut any inconsistent evidence.

In separate filings yesterday, prosecutors also rejected defence motions that the federal death penalty should be declared unconstitutional and that some aggravating factors they have cited in seeking the death penalty should be thrown out.

They said "betrayal of the United States" by Tsarnaev as a US citizen was a permissible factor but they would modify it to delete a reference to his status as a naturalised citizen. They said they proposed to note instead that he violated the oath of allegiance he took in becoming a citizen.

Prosecutors said Tsarnaev explained his motive in the note he left in the boat, saying the US government was killing innocent civilians.

"I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," the note said in part. "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all."

It ended: "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

PA Media

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