As a result, a federal judge found that the government has presented insufficient explanations for why it is prohibiting a man convicted of the Boston Marathon bombing from contacting his nieces and nephews by phone or from mailing photographs to his family and attorneys.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of murdering four people in April 2013 and is currently incarcerated at the Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, has claimed that he has been subjected to a number of constitutional violations as a result of the special administrative measures, or SAMs, that the government has imposed on him while he is detained in prison. Tsarnaev is only permitted to make telephone calls to his immediate family members under the SAMs, and he is not permitted to transmit “hobby crafts or photographs.” in general.
Tsarnaev maintained that the bans violated his First Amendment rights and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, which he claimed was unconstitutional.
This Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty expressed concern that the federal government’s responses to those claims had been inadequate and unsatisfactory. Despite the fact that the SAMs may be warranted in the case of Tsarnaev, Hegarty said in a March 7 decision that “I still have to be presented with some articulable basis made by a responsible government authority,”
Under federal law, the Attorney General of the United States may authorize wardens to impose exceptional administrative measures on detainees in order to prevent death or significant physical injury from occurring. As part of that purpose, restrictions on a person’s ability to communicate or use the telephone may be imposed if the restrictions are “reasonably necessary to protect persons against the risk of acts of violence or terrorism.”
Tsarnaev was placed under SAMs by the Federal Bureau of Prisons shortly after his detention. He is only permitted to call his close relatives at this time; he is not permitted to call his nieces and nephews. Immediate family members may not even allow others to listen in on the conversation or describe it to a niece or nephew after it has ended. Visits in person, on the other hand, are permitted.
Tsarnaev, speaking on his own behalf, contended that prison officials are imposing more limitations than are necessary to avoid violence or terrorism in the facility.
Boston Bomber, claims no penological interest at keeping him from family
According to him in his court filing, “The SAMs infringe on my right to associate with my family, and this infringement is not reasonably related to any legitimate penological interest,”
Hegarty dismissed the notion that Tsarnaev’s inability to communicate with his nieces and nephews constituted cruel and unusual punishment almost as quickly as it had been raised. He also pointed out that the government has a genuine interest in stopping Tsarnaev from indoctrinating youngsters when they are very young.
Tsarnaev’s niece and nephew visited him in person, but the government did not explain to the magistrate why in-person visits are permissible but phone conversations are not, in response to the magistrate’s question.
In his opinion, “Even assuming the legitimate interest in protecting children from terrorist indoctrination, I cannot discern a rational basis in the record for treating Plaintiff’s in-person and telephone communications differently,” according to the court’s decision. “Both are monitored in real time by either U.S. Marshals, BOP staff, or Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel, and both could involve dangerous communications transmitted quickly before the monitor can break the conversation.” the report states.
The government asserted that national security experts “can rationally conclude” that delivering harmful information over the phone poses greater dangers, but did not provide any evidence to support this assertion. Hegarty replied that in-person meetings could provide “an opportunity for nonverbal communication,” resulting in a distinct set of risks than those associated with electronic communication.
As part of his analysis of the limitation on Tsarnaev mailing mail directly to three of his nieces and nephews, Hegarty expressed the same concern as Hegarty. Once again, the government contended that national security officials “can reasonably decide” that damaging material might fall into the hands of such relatives without giving any additional study. The government was successful.
When it comes to the government’s argument for prohibiting Tsarnaev from transmitting images to his family and attorneys, Hegarty discovered a different flaw in the reasoning.
Tsarnaev attempted to have this SAM overturned by filing an administrative grievance, which was denied by the Bureau of Prisons. According to the bureau’s statement, “it was determined that the SAM has been properly applied.” and so, it does not have power to change the SAM.
“I am not satisfied with the vague and veiled language used here,” Hegarty reprimanded the administration.
After hearing Tsarnaev’s complaints, the magistrate court believed it was feasible that the government would be able to provide clarification on how the Bureau of Prisons handled it and who, in fact, “properly applied” the SAM. Tsarnaev’s complaint against the government was denied by the judge, who instead offered the government the opportunity to properly explain itself through additional court files before making a decision.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev planted homemade explosives at the 2013 Boston Marathon, resulting in the deaths of three individuals and the injuries of more than 250 more. Shortly later, the Tsarnaev brothers carried out another murder, this time of a police officer. At the time of the explosion, prosecutors depicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a domestic terrorist who had extremist materials in his possession, according to the prosecution.
Tsarnaev was found guilty of 30 counts, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction, the bombing of a building, and willful destruction of property, by a jury in 2013. Seventeen of the charges carried the possibility of life imprisonment or the death penalty. The jury in Tsarnaev’s case recommended that he be executed.
Tsarnaev’s death sentence was overturned by a federal appeals court headquartered in Boston in July 2020, but the Supreme Court of the United States reversed that judgment last week by a vote of 6-3.