Prosecutors seeking the death penalty for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alleged in court this week that he'd written "defiant" messages while being treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center following his arrest.
"Two days when he lay in the bed in Beth Israel, he wrote one defiant note after another," Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb told a judge in a sidebar argument Wednesday over the testimony of a deputy U.S. marshal who guarded Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev's lawyers, trying to persuade the jury to sentence Tsarnaev to life in prison, strenuously denied that characterization. "He was never defiant, hostile or uncooperative," defense attorney Miriam Conrad told the judge, according to court transcripts.
The argument occurred out of earshot of the jury that will determine Tsarnaev's sentence for the April 15, 2013 bombing, in which three people died and more than 200 were injured. Prosecutors said nothing more about the notes, and the questioning of the marshal resumed.
Tsarnaev's written correspondence with agents from his hospital bed were the subject of a legal battle a year ago, when his lawyers argued that they should not be used as evidence because he was suffering from gunshot wounds to his head, face, throat, jaw, left hand and legs. His left eye was sutured shut, his jaw was wired closed and his hearing was impaired. He was on pain medication and groggy, the lawyers said.
In the notes, Tsarnaev he wrote the word "lawyer" 10 times and asked repeatedly about his brother, who'd been killed in a shootout with police, the lawyers asserted in a court filing. "Is my brother alive I know you said he is are you lying Is he alive? One person can tell you that," Tsarnaev wrote in one note, according to the lawyers. In another, he asked: “can I sleep? Can you not handcuff my right arm? Where is my bro Are you sure.”
Two weeks ago, jurors were shown a video in which he gave the middle finger to a courthouse camera. On Wednesday, Conrad asked the marshal, Kevin Michael Roche, about his response to that episode.
"We addressed what we had observed and informed him that that was not going to be tolerated here in this house, and it was going to bed dealt with if it continued, and asked him if he had any plans to continue that behavior," Roche said.
"And what did he say?" Conrad asked.
"And he had said, 'No. I'm done. I'm sorry.'" Roche replied.
Testimony in the penalty phase of the trial is expected to end early next week.
— Jon Schuppe and Andy Thibault