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Boston bomber's lawyers ask judge to exclude hospital statements

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspect in the Boston Marathon explosion is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo. REUTERS/FBI/Handout
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspect in the Boston Marathon explosion is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for the accused Boston Marathon bomber on Wednesday asked a judge not to allow statements the defendant made to the FBI while handcuffed to a hospital bed with his jaw wired shut to be read at trial since he did not have an attorney present.

Federal investigators questioned accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after his arrest without advising him of his right to counsel, citing a provision of U.S. law that allows them to do so to learn of any risks to public safety.

Tsarnaev is accused of killing three people and injuring 264 at the marathon's finish line on April 15, 2013 and shooting dead a university police officer three days later. He told FBI investigators that only he and his older brother were involved in the plot and that no further bombs had been planted, defense attorneys said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Investigators questioned the suspect, now 20, from the time he became conscious a day after police found him hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard until two days later, when criminal charges against him were unsealed and court-appointed attorneys assigned to his case, defense attorneys said.

Tsarnaev, who had been shot in the head, answered investigators' questions by scribbling on a notepad and repeatedly asked to be allowed to sleep and provided a lawyer, according to the filing.

"Interspersed with these pleas are his assurances that no one other than his brother was involved, that there was no danger to anyone else, and that there were no remaining bombs," the filing said. It noted that it also appeared agents had told the suspect that his 26-year-old brother, who died after a gunfight with police, was alive.

"Is my brother alive I know you said he is are you lying Is he alive?" the notes read, according to the filing.

Public defenders repeatedly went to the Boston hospital where Tsarnaev was held but were turned away, the filing said.

It argues that Tsarnaev's statements should be ruled inadmissible at his trial, scheduled to begin in November. Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who lived in the Boston area for a decade before the attack, faces the possibility of execution if convicted.

"The undisputed fact that the agents expressly told Tsarnaev that he would not get a lawyer until they were done questioning him also renders the statements involuntary," defense lawyers said.

Federal prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment. Typically they respond to defense filings in court filings of their own.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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