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Tsarnaev's Attorneys Say FBI Questions Violated His Rights

Results of the FBI's questioning of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a hospital last April should not be allowed as evidence, Tsarnaev's attorneys say. They're asking a federal judge to suppress statements he made as he suffered from gunshot wounds.

The agents said they needed to be sure the threat to public safety was over, according to the filing, which says they went too far in an attempt to "extract as much incriminating information as possible, without regard for the protections of the Fifth Amendment."

The FBI's interrogation went on for more than 24 hours after he was brought to a hospital and received treatment on April 19, 2013, according to the defense team's filing.

"Defense attorneys for Dzokhar Tsarnaev offer new details about his serious injuries, including gunshot wounds to his throat, left hand and both legs when he was taken into custody in April 2013," NPR's Carrie Johnson reports for our Newscast unit. "The lawyers say Tsarnaev was unable to speak, but that he asked in writing for a lawyer 10 times — pleas that went unanswered."

The Boston Globe relays how the documents describe Tsarnaev's treatment at the hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center:

"By 7:22 p.m., April 20, agents with an FBI 'high value interrogation group' began questioning Tsarnaev, and the interrogation continued, with breaks ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours, until 7:05 a.m. The agents returned the evening of April 21 and continued questioning him until 9 a.m. the next day, when Tsarnaev was appointed counsel, the documents indicate."

The newspaper adds that the documents also say the bombing suspect "was prescribed powerful medications including Fentanyl, Propofol, and Dilaudid."

Professor Mario Barnes of the UC Irvine School of Law tells The Los Angeles Times that "there's some probability" that the judge will grant the request to exclude the statements.

Barnes says the judge will have to weigh the same questions that arose in the case that created a precedent for denying Miranda rights. The newspaper explains:

"The public safety exception comes from a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that allowed police to ask a suspected rapist what had happened to a gun that a witness had seen him with earlier. The court decided the public safety threat posed by the missing gun caused more harm than the lack of reading him his Miranda warning did."

Tsarnaev's trial will begin later this year, on charges that carry the death penalty if he's convicted.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.