Lawyers for alleged Boston bomber seek to lift restrictions on his communications

Lawyers for the accused Boston Marathon bomber will ask a judge today to loosen the restrictions on his confinement.

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev claim the “special administrative measures” imposed by the government are hampering their defense, Reuters reports. The restrictions limit Tsarnaev’s access to the mail, the media, the telephone and visitors. He is also being held apart from other prisoners.

His lawyers were required to sign an agreement that they are aware of the restrictions, and they will not forward third party messages to or from Tsarnaev, according to their motion (PDF). Communications with Tsarnaev can only be disclosed to prepare his defense.

Lawyers and their staffers can communicate with Tsarnaev by phone only if they have been precleared and an attorney is physically present and participating in the call.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev argue the restrictions aren’t justified by the facts, and they violate his rights to effective assistance of counsel and to free speech and association. One example cited in the motion: Restrictions on disseminating information obtained from Tsarnaev could hamper lawyers’ ability to discuss the case with potential witnesses.

The government argues that the restrictions are needed to prevent Tsarnaev from inspiring others to commit acts of terrorism. The government cites Tsarnaev’s message left inside the boat where he was hiding, calling it a “clarion call to radical militants to follow in his wake.”

The message said the U.S. government “is killing our innocent civilians.”

“As a M[uslim] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all,” he wrote. “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.”

An opinion piece in the Atlantic argues that restrictions are sometimes justifiable, but “there is a great deal of doubt” about the need for them in Tsarnaev’s case.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.