Are Loose Lips Sinking Accused Boston Bomber’s Right to a Fair Trial?

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in an FBI handout photo.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in an FBI handout photo.

Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers have asked the judge in the case to determine if a flood of leaks and public comments by law enforcement officers are prejudicing the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Since the case is related to what’s been called the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, the stakes of the trial are as high as they are emotional. But how much of what we know about the bombing comes from leaks to the media instead of the normal public channels surrounding a criminal case?

Tsarnaev’s lawyers in a May 2 motion argue that the media has been made privy to secret grand jury testimony not yet revealed to them by prosecutors, and want the judge to probe those leaks in a hearing.

The Still-Unanswered Questions

Starting the week after the Boston Marathon bombing, WhoWhatWhy has been investigating and questioning the public narrative put forward by the authorities about the attack.

Our exclusive reporting has shown you serious inconsistencies in the official story, and highlighted law enforcement’s heavy reliance on the testimony of a single witness to pin the blame on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his dead brother, Tamerlan. We’ve told you about the FBI’s rough handling of people connected to the Tsarnaevs, and the agency’s later admission that it had been monitoring the two.

Indeed, much of what is publicly known about the case emanates from anonymous sources, from Dzhokhar’s leaked “boat confession” to Tamerlan’s alleged admission of guilt to a carjacking victim known only as “Danny.”

Here’s our by-no-means-exhaustive list of some of the anonymous leaks that have helped steer the narrative from the start, to help you decide for yourself if the terrorism aspect of the case is trumping the constitutional right to a fair trial:

April 21, 2013: As we previously reported, someone in law enforcement leaked a copy of a Cambridge police report to the Wall Street Journal that describes the carjacking victim’s initial testimony to police.

April 22, 2013: ABC affiliate WCVB reported that an unnamed law enforcement official told them that Middlesex County investigators are checking leads to see if Tamerlan was involved in a triple murder in Waltham, Mass., on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. This anonymous official, without having to present evidence, associated Tamerlan Tsarnaev with the slayings.

April 23, 2013: Within days of the bombing, anonymous law enforcement officials told CNN that the brothers acted alone and were self-radicalized by the internet.

On the same date, CNN reports that an anonymous law enforcement official said that the brothers bought fireworks from a store in New Hampshire prior to the bombing. They were quick to point out that the amount of gunpowder purchased was not enough to make a bomb, but the idea that the Tsarnaevs had been playing with explosives was further cemented in the public debate.

May 10, 2013: The triple murder association surfaces yet again in an ABC News report citing an unidentified law enforcement official that spoke of “mounting evidence” of the brothers’ involvement. The official was careful to hedge, cautioning that it was too early to consider an indictment against Dzhokhar until definitive DNA testing was complete.

May 16, 2013: Former FBI spokesman John Miller, now a CBS reporter, describes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s written “boat admission,” citing an unnamed source in the FBI. The message described by Miller amounts to a full confession to the bombing and paints Dzhokhar as a warrior in a jihad against America.

July 18, 2013: Massachusetts State Police photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy leaks photos to Boston Magazine showing a battered and bruised Dzhokhar leaving the boat in Watertown. Murphy was angry about a Rolling Stone cover photograph that he felt glamorized the alleged terrorist. As a result of the unauthorized leak, Murphy was relieved of duty.

Feb 28, 2014: The prosecution publicly claimed that Dzhokhar made a “compromising statement” while talking to his sister in jail. His meetings and telephone calls are monitored by the FBI. The story was widely disseminated by the press before the defense team was able to respond.

April 9, 2014: The Los Angeles Times reports that Tamerlan tried to change his first name to that of a now-dead Islamic militant from the Caucasus region. It cites a leaked Department of Homeland Security document.

April 13, 2014: The FBI now claims that a media threat to publicize pictures of the suspect—leaked by one of their own agents—forced them to release the photos earlier than planned.

April 17, 2014: ABC News reports that it was given a photograph of the message Dzhokhar allegedly scrawled on the inside of the boat prior to his capture, in which he admits his guilt. The source once again is unidentified.

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0 responses to “Are Loose Lips Sinking Accused Boston Bomber’s Right to a Fair Trial?”

  1. Tina says:

    Great article, excellent piece.

  2. Baker51A says:

    Leaks are driving public opinion on this case, and have since day one. The prosecution wants to give the impression of an air-tight case, with both video evidence and confessions, but there appear to be problems with the documents we’ve been told exist. Was Dzhokhar’s bedside ‘confession’ obtained under a public safety exception to Miranda warning coerced? Yes,

    and it should be thrown out. http://thebostonmarathonbombings.weebly.com/can-i-sleep-im-exhausted-tsarnaevs-bedside-scribblings.html

  3. Brandon Ray Morris says:

    It is clear a fair trail is out of the question at this point. I just hope the American people become up-rested by the blatant disregard for justice here, rather than focusing on the horrific act of terrorism. Don’t get me wrong the Boston Bombing was a terrible act, and I have the deepest sympathy for those who lost their lives that day. However, what is equally terrifying is watching our rights to a fair trail parish in either a incompetent justice system, or a premeditated demonstration of “Justice”. As always the same question arises, should the trail continue despite its inability to remain fair, what are we the people going to do in order to preserve our right to a fair trial?

  4. Barney says:

    Is it just me or does that supposed photo look like a bad Photoshop composite picture. It looks like they did a whole bun of editing top to bottom and left to right. Look particularly at the bridge of the nose where they seemingly did a bad blending job. I always get suspicious when the eyebrows are groomed and perfect. (perfect from a cosmetologist standpoint is when the outside tip of the eyebrow, corner of the eye and tip of the nose line up) They did the same thing with supposed Adam Lanza photo.

  5. Mark says:

    Gotta say, this is the most bizarre, suspicious case ever. Seems like it is a house of cards, held together by lies and deceit. The two brothers seem like perfect candidates, they have absolutely no support here, none. The widow is gone – MIA. Probably told to make herself scarce and keep her mouth shut if she wants to see her little girl grow up. The parents are 6000 miles away and probably on the no-fly list. The younger brother has not one single advocate. He has been silenced and is at the mercy of the government. And I agree with the comment below about the American people allowing this to happen….absolutely!!! By not demanding truth.

  6. Crime Reporter says:

    Hope you’ve all had a chance to see the government’s answer to the media leaks.

    http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/224622270?access_key=key-dz88ci2rVMGnpDClIDMo&allow_share=false&escape=false&show_recommendations=false&view_mode=scroll

    Of particular interest is this passage regarding the “boat note.”

    …the boat was in a semi-public space where it might have been photographed by individuals not associated with this investigation; and since that time, the defense teamitself has inspected the boat and was permitted to photograph.

    With that, I expect the defense to have motion in hand soon to chuck the alleged “boat note” as evidence. How can the prosecution enter evidence that was neither protected from the public nor bound by a proper chain-of-evidence procedure?

    Anyone could have climbed into the boat, according to this passage, and photographed it, altered it, written it or dropped red paint on it.

    Of course, eliminating both the hospital bed “confession” in a PSE overreach and the unprotected boat note is up to Judge O’Toole, who doesn’t seem to care much for the rights of American defendants.

  7. Patriarch says:

    The latest leak is that the LA times, notorious for receiving law enforcement “evidence” reports that a drug dealer in Maine somehow gave Tamerlan an unmarked gun, used on MIT Sean Collier at point blank range.
    Back to that “Oswald” playbook.

    i say that is a planted gun and a planted story, most likely used as evidence in many murder frameups by the FBI.

    Also, the “clean as a whistle” FBI Agent, Aaron McFarlane who left the Oakland PD on full disabilty was identified as Todashev’s murderer by the Globe.

    the connection between both reports: “Point Blank Range”.
    Now, in today’s Globe editorial, they are calling on the Mass. State Troopers to release the audio tapes of the Todashev home interrogation/”confession”
    ….you can only fool some of the people all of the time ( Abraham Lincoln).

    • barbara henninger says:

      This case is so full of analogies to the JFK case. The landlady of Tamerlan and his wife and child, Joann Herlihy, was Russian speaker, formerly a Peace Corp volunteer, who portrays herself as “their best friend”, but gave them notice to vacate so she could get more money for the apartment. Now she’s a go-to for dirt on Tamerlan. Ruth Paine was the Russian speaking CIA connected landlady for Marina Oswald and her children. After a search was completed of her property by law enforcement, Ruth was magically able to discover an incriminating (possibly altered) photo of Lee with a rifle. There is also a George DeMohrenshild type character, who is a relative of Misha, the guy who, according to Uncle Ruslan, “took Tamerlan’s brain” and filled it with religious rubbish.

  8. oh_look says:

    how can we ever be sure “evidence” the FBI or other law enforcement has against this young man has not been altered or otherwise manipulated? These agencies must have the most state-of-the-art tools for altering photos, hand printing, etc.

  9. disqus_a2SRiKaB1i says:

    “FBI’s rough handling of people” connected to the Tsarnaev’s is putting it rather delicately. “Gang surveillance”, false arrests, trumped up charges, severe imprisonment, deportation and murder, maybe???
    Thank you for this article. With every news story I read about this case and Dzhokhar’s 3 friends, I am mystified just how many anonymous sources from the government are willing and able to blab away to the press about every detail, (i.e. the incredulous boat note) while Dzhokhar is held under the severe conditions of SAM’s, because he might send a message and endanger the public with a word or gesture.
    I am guessing his words may endanger the storyline

  10. Mick Price says:

    “The official was careful to hedge, cautioning that it was too early to consider an indictment against Dzhokhar until definitive DNA testing was complete.”

    Since when does a high-priority DNA test take 18 days?

  11. soularddave says:

    Why is it that the “reasonable doubt” seems to loom larger than the “body of evidence”? Has WhoWhatWhy spoken with the lawyers for the defense? Are there videos of the various “Danny” stories?

    Where’s Perry Mason when you need him?

  12. barbara henninger says:

    Is it legal for the police to withhold the incident report they took from “Danny”? Can a FOIA be filed for it?

  13. Doomsday Diva says:

    Frankly, the American ppl deserve better than rogue agencies fabricating lies whilst their govt continues to undermine individual rights and freedoms. How are they eroding those rights? Through the fear based war on terrorism….which brings us back to rogue agencies fabricating lies….

    • Mick Price says:

      “Frankly, the American ppl deserve better than rogue agencies fabricating lies whilst their govt continues to undermine individual rights and freedoms. ”
      Really? Because they way they let it slide time after time I’d say that’s exactly what they deserve.

    • Cloudchopper says:

      The majority of the American people bought the government, FBI version of the events, hook, line and sinker. Many people in Boston even celebrated the cops, martial law and the shut down of an entire city for two young framed guys.

    • gingercake5 says:

      And it was all an elaborate hoax. Look at the evidence before dismissing me as a kook. http://fellowshipoftheminds.com/boston-marathon-bombings/

    • Cloudchopper says:

      I might not go along that it all was an elaborate hoax, but is was truly fishy and stank to high heaven. The media did not even bother to follow up on it much at all. I could not read all the articles you sent me too, but any thinking person watching the news coverage (I kept switching between all three cable news net works) knew that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

    • Patriarch says:

      let what slide?

    • Doomsday Diva says:

      Good point Mick

  14. Kansas_Voter says:

    To me, it seems like the Tsarnaev’s were framed. Either they didn’t do it at all, or like every other “terrorist” case in America during the past 20 years, the Feds gave them the idea and helped them along with a “terrorist attack” with the intent of stopping them at the last minute.

  15. goingnowherefast says:

    The authorities are scared sh*tless of a fair trial because they know they’ll lose based on the evidence.

    Lies piled on top of lies on top of more lies on top of more lies on top of more lies………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    • always ask questions says:

      I agree. This kid is never going to get a fair trial due to most of the media constantly reporting garbage. Dzhokhars trial will be run by the FBI as they have no limits and no one to answer to.

    • digital82711 says:

      Tom Piatek was a friend of mine and was of the Hutaree Militia fame. If the American people heard his story I do not know if they would laugh or cry. All I can tell you is that the FBI is not what you think it is, nor is our government.

    • Patriarch says:

      Since OKC, anyone with a triple digit iq has a good idea who what why the FBI stays in existence…follow the money.

    • edwardrynearson says:

      Or like GITMO and James Holmes will this simply slide into the “Memory Hole?”

    • barbara henninger says:

      I don’t think so. I think people will be talking about this case for years like the Kennedy and King assassinations.

    • abbeysbooks says:

      Difference is that this one is going on before DT is dead and before the trial. This can/should affect the outcome of the trial seriously. Wait and see and do what you can on social media.

    • barbara henninger says:

      Yes, and with the internet things go so much faster.