Scene of a Purported Confession That Probably Won’t Float in Court

Scene of a Purported Confession That Probably Won’t Float in Court

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is alleged to have confessed twice to the Boston Marathon bombing. Yet both “confessions”—although widely mentioned in the media—are so fraught with problems that neither may be entered into evidence at the upcoming trial.

“Confession” #1

The problem with the first confession has to do with what’s known in legal jargon as “chain of custody.” According to law enforcement officials, Tsarnaev scrawled a series of self-incriminating notes on the side of the dry-docked boat in which he hid after a shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts.

But instead of maintaining close custody of these notes, the government has admitted that the bullet-ridden boat was left open for days in a semi-public space where it might have been photographed by individuals not associated with this investigation.

Indeed, ABC News apparently took a photo of at least some of the notes, possibly with the assent of a law enforcement officer. More to the point, during the time when the evidence was unsecured, anyone might have tampered with the notes, rendering them highly dubious as evidence.

Breaking the Chain

The importance of securing evidence from tampering is underlined in this passage from a Department of Justice website:

“To maintain chain of custody, you must preserve evidence from the time it is collected to the time it is presented in court. To prove the chain of custody, and ultimately show that the evidence has remained intact, prosecutors generally need service providers who can testify:

• That the evidence offered in court is the same evidence they collected or received.

• To the time and date the evidence was received or transferred to another provider.

• That there was no tampering with the item while it was in custody.”

While breaks in the chain do not automatically render evidence inadmissible, defense attorneys can challenge the authenticity of anything that has not been properly secured.

Confession—or Last Rites?

Only parts of the notes were made public in the April 2013 indictment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. According to the prosecution, this is what he wrote:

“I’m jealous of my brother who ha[s] [re]ceived the reward of jannutul Firdaus (inshallah) before me. I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions. I ask Allah to make me a shahied to allow me to return to him and be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven…The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that.”


“As a [UI] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all. Well at least that’s how Muhammad (pbuh – or Peace Be Upon Him) wanted it to be [for]ever, the ummah is beginning to rise/[UI] has awoken the mujahideen, know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that. We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [UI] it is allowed. All credit goes [UI]. Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop.” (Editor’s note: UI stands for unintelligible.)

But this transcript is clearly not complete. The ABC News image shows that, at the beginning of one of the notes, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote, “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammad is his messenger. [Obscured by bullet hole] actions came with a (me)ssage and that is [obscured by bullet hole], In’shallah.”

The first sentence is a version of the Muslim testimony of faith known as the Shahada, one of the Five Pillars of Islam. One of the times it is recited is when a Muslim feels close to death.

While the scrawled notes allude to “actions” the Tsarnaev brothers took, nowhere in the notes that have been released to the public is there a direct mention of the Marathon bombing or the shootout with the police.

“Confession” #2

According to media reports based on law enforcement leaks, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly confessed his involvement in the Marathon bombing while recovering from gunshot wounds in a Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess hospital.

The defense claims that law enforcement officers violated his rights by questioning him while he was heavily sedated, failing to read him his Miranda Rights and ignoring his requests for a lawyer. On these grounds the defense has stated it would challenge use of anything the defendant said in the hospital during any part of the trial.

The prosecution has said that it does not intend to use Tsarnaev’s hospital statements in making the case against him, but that it might introduce them to challenge the credibility of defense witnesses, or during the sentencing phase if he is convicted.


With both alleged confessions under a cloud of doubt, and the probability that Tsarnaev will not testify, the public may never hear from the man at the center of the Boston Marathon bombing about his motive or intentions.

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0 responses to “Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Alleged Boat Confession May Not Float”

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  2. Legalized Torture says:

    “Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Alleged Boat Confession May Not Float”

    Maybe not before an intelligent, well-informed and sophisticated jury. But HEY, the trial will be conducted in the USA so no need to worry about THAT.

  3. mina catheb says:

    This post says nothing, absolutely nothing but make those who believe in his innocence more warm and fuzzy about their beliefs. Chain of custody approach is not a new approach in any defense team’s arsenal for defending the guilty. It says nothing about the truth or that his handwriting will be analyzed and that the boat was guarded for days on end, until it was hauled and locked away.
    The picture of the note obtained by ABC is just that, a picture. It most likely came from the official case files, not a reporter seeing it in up close. How can anyone presume to write for a media outlet called WWW and not know about the ‘chain of custody’ in any real detail it as it applies to this case, like when did the boat just sit there for all those to come and look it at it? When did this actually happen? What is the point of writing this post if you add nothing to the conversation but speculation on a potential defense tactic. And as usual, always siting other media reports to bolster your own. And not reading someone their Miranda doesn’t equate to cloud of doubt, that is your personal opinion, not objective by any means.

    • Guest says:

      ‘like when did the boat just sit there for all those to come and look it at it? When did this actually happen ?’

      With respect – ‘that the boat was guarded for days on end’ is not by any means certain.

      The prosecution stated that the boat was left in a ‘semi-public’space, but has not revealed anything about the time. The author’s quotation “in a semi-public space where it might have been photographed by individuals not associated with this investigation.” is from a court document signed by the prosecution. The descriptor ‘semi-public’ suggests that the scene was not properly secured.

    • cedarsagecatrina says:

      Chain of custody is also crucial to protecting the innocent . If it is broken or unverifiable , it certainly has a bearing on the truth -especially in cases based on circumstantial evidence , absent a confession. Of course , not reading someone his Miranda rights equates to doubt about guilt – that is one of the ways people are coerced and/or intimidated into false confessions . And Tsarnaev was interrogated lawyerless while on life-support in the hospital .

  4. U3O8 says:

    Anybody w/ any critical thinking skill sets & discernment can smell a Rat. It was setup 100%.

  5. Karen Berman says:

    The thing stood out to me the most about the “boat confession” was released to the public after DZ was given his Miranda right, but not before he “confessed” in the hospital. It seemed odd that the investigator released the boat confession and saying “let his attorney’s deal with this confession” He was angry that the hospital confession probably would not hold up in court and then this boat confession just popped right up.

    • daniel wilson says:

      Essentially this part of the story was scripted to justify the “high valued interrogation group” who are an abomination of semantic law.

    • daniel wilson says:

      although now that I just said that I of course think there are many aspects to it but if nothing else it certainly normalizes the idea that someone can be held like an animal if deemed important.

  6. Kevin says:

    I apologize for not also including the entire WhoWhatWhy team in my praise of the coverage (as my previous post made it sound like Russ, not Lara Turner, wrote this article).

  7. Kevin says:

    Thank you so much for your coverage of this case, Russ. I’m starting to see the brilliance of your strategy in spending so much time on it. Readers of WhoWhatWhy, please do your best to get this information disseminated.

  8. EyesWideOpen says:

    That is not JAHAR’s writing style. He writes in shorthand. All kids do now. Check out his twitter feed.
    This is manufactured & counterfeit.
    Hired FBI hack who claims to have a grasp of the muslim “groupthink”

    Pathetic, Along the same narrative/playbook used by the FBI CRIME SYNDICATE that EVERY defendant builds a bomb from the INSPIRE website.

    The problem with all the media analysis regarding this event is that no writer is considering this is theater…a show trial ..Sacco & Vanzetti redux. A phony proceeding.
    Look at his appearance. No mentoring by counsel at all. What does he know? He has to depend on them &’they are OUT TO LUNCH without an overcoat or gloves.

    Sadly, Clarence Darrow is off the radar.

    You are the juror. Here is the prosecutors’ case.
    Draw your own conclusion:

    • Karen Berman says:

      That is not entirely true. His “hood” language is as you say. But there was a college paper of his released – I’m sure you can still find it – and he displayed a very technical, controlled, and intelligent use of the language in that paper.

    • EyesWideOpen says:

      Is this technical?

      In 2011, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote an English assignment while attending UMass Dartmouth about the West Memphis Three, who many believe were wrongly accused.

      “In this case it would have been hard to protect or defend these young boys if the whole town exclaimed in happiness at the arrest. Also, to go against the authorities isn’t the easiest thing to do. Don’t get me wrong though, I am appalled at the situation but I think that the town was scared and desperate
      to blame someone. It’s because of stories like this and such occurrences that make a positive change in this world. I’m pretty sure there won’t be anymore similar tales like this. In any case, if they do, people won’t stand quiet, I hope.”

      Do You think that is a mitigating statement?

      Isn’t written like a jihadi to anyone who reads it.

    • Karen Berman says:

      well, compared to the use of the language in text, yes. It is correct punctually, grammatically, sentence structure, etc I also thought like you did at first, the DZ didn’t write what was in the boat until I saw this paper. So yes, he can write like that. Remember how everyone thought the cops beat him up because the only photo released of him coming out of the boat didn’t show blood and then when he was on the ground he was all beat up. It wasn’t until the Boston cop released the capture photos that we see how badly hurt he was inside the boat. So a few things about this case seemed to come together over time, but a lot of it still remains suspicious

    • daniel wilson says:

      I assure you that you will only find sense in this whole thing if you look at it from the angle that the whole thing from the start was a Homeland Security drill. Please look at this as a psychological operation mixed with a martial law type dry run. Dzhokhar was either a simple actor in this as Ed Davis used the term (I know it means not only Hollywood type acting but it’s funny) or a patsy that was followed , framed and silenced. Suspicious is an understatement.

    • EyesWideOpen says:


      Spread the word!

    • daniel wilson says:

      You too!! ‘hope to see you again!

  9. jane24 says:

    Thanks again Lara Turner. Your article serves to illustrate that these much touted so-called “confessions” lack credibility and are likely not “confessions” at all. I personally have never believed in the authenticity of the “boat note” but even if I am wrong I see little more than religious text. The FBI’s failure to protect the integrity of such evidence, (if it is indeed evidence at all), is simply staggering.

    In the second instance, I consider it doubtful that Tsarnaev was in any fit state to be interrogated whilst at Beth Israel Deaconess due to the extent of his injuries and the use of opiates would certainly lead one to question the value of any info or admission obtained under such circumstances. Imo both these alleged “confessions” should be ruled inadmissible.

  10. Guest says:

    Sorry for the duplicate comment. (Discus not working so well!)

  11. disqus_a2SRiKaB1i says:

    The Shehada is simply confirming ones faith as a Muslim, comforting in the face of death. I don;t know if he wrote the note at all, seems unlikely, but if he did it seems like the SHehada was “embellished”, wink wink. The note showed up about the time people were pointing out that no one took “responsibility” for the bombing, which like the whole event, was highly unusual.

  12. Guest says:

    And sorry again. More Discus issues.

  13. Ralph Hornsby says:

    I thought he didn’t know his brother was dead until they told him in hospital.

    • Gaston Lagaffe says:

      No. He thought his brother was dead, but was told by interrogators in hospital that Tamerlan was still alive. And, who knows, he may have believed them, although he sounds sceptical in his reactions. Only then, hours later, he was told that Tamerlan was dead after all. An emotional rollercoaster, surely.

  14. Peter says:

    This whole business with this boat was my first clue that the whole thing was a hoax. They had an intense dragnet out looking for this guy that went on for a long time. They knew pretty much what neighborhood he was in. I saw photos of them looking in garbage cans. It never occured to anybody to look in this boat? It was right out in the open. It does not make sense.

  15. Just being honest says:

    Now we know neither so called confession will be brought into play as evidence at the trail. Who is going to believe that Jahar who was shot in his hand and arms multiple times would be able to write so perfectly and clearly a long confession on one side of that tiny boat. The confession that was supposedly written on the boat wall would have to be words over words because their was no room. Look at the boat wall size and imagine this long confession he was supposedly has written so perfectly come on really now. Jahar was dying and if he was gonna write anything it would be to his family.

    • Gaston Lagaffe says:

      “Who is going to believe that Jahar who was shot in his hand and arms
      multiple times would be able to write so perfectly and clearly a long
      confession on one side of that tiny boat”

      Maybe he got those wounds – esp. the one in the hand – only after he was found. He was in that boat for hours – enough time to write a couple of messages.

    • Just being honest says:

      That long of a confession would be impossible to write on that small boats walls. If you look at the boat and the size of the walls you will realize he didn’t write all or any part of the so called confession. Jahar didn’t know his brother was dead what he did know was Tamerlan was in the FBI custody. If you look at the video of the shootout with the police Tamerlan looked like he was shielding Jahar and I’m gonna say he probably told Jahar to get away so once Jahar seen the police take tamerlan down he tried to get away just like tamerlan told him you do. So Jahar didn’t know until the police told tamerlan passed.

    • EyesWideOpen says:

      He’s a kid not a martyr, which is putting a square peg in a round hole.

      Only the FBI THINKS they can fool the masses.

      Mark Twain
      “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

  16. Mary Jo says:

    If that boat was not 100% secured as evidence, what were the feds thinking???

    • EyesWideOpen says:

      The boat evidence was an afterthought because they had no concrete evidence against him.

      Frederic Whitehursr, whistleblower explains what truly goes on at the FBI LABS. LETS just say, it doesn’t comport with the Rules of Court or the Billl of Rights.
      They make it up as they go along…whatever sticks to the wall.

      With Liberty & Justice for All.

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