Public defender says will represent Boston bomb suspect

BOSTON Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:07pm EDT

FBI and Boston Police officers stand in front of the house at 67 Franklin St. where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, was hiding near in Watertown, Massachusetts, April 19, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

FBI and Boston Police officers stand in front of the house at 67 Franklin St. where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, was hiding near in Watertown, Massachusetts, April 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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BOSTON (Reuters) - The Federal Public Defender Office said Saturday it will represent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, once charges are filed.

Miriam Conrad, head of the Boston office that represents criminal suspects who cannot afford a lawyer, said via email that "we have been informed that we will be appointed after charges are filed."

The pending appointment came as some Republicans called for the suspect to be tried with fewer rights, which could lead to a battle over the legal process.

Conrad said she could not give more details.

But a source close to the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials hoped to file charges against Tsarnaev later on Saturday.

The source said the 19-year-old was shot in the throat and had tongue damage.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said Tsarnaev's condition was serious. "He's not yet able to speak," Patrick told reporters on Saturday.

The suspect was captured Friday night and remained hospitalized under guard in Boston. Another official in Conrad's office, Charles McGinty, said earlier on Saturday that its attorneys have not spoken to Tsarnaev and will have to be appointed to represent him by a federal judge.

"That's why we're trying to advance the appointment to be as soon as possible," he said.

In Washington, several Republicans lawmakers called on the Obama administration to try Tsarnaev as an "enemy combatant" under terms of war, without rights such as the appointment of counsel.

"The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans," Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Representative Peter King of New York said in a statement.

Authorities did not read the teenager the Miranda warning usually given by police to criminal suspects before they are interrogated so statements can be admissible in court.

A Justice Department official said the government is invoking the public safety exception to Miranda to question the suspect extensively about other potential explosive devices or accomplices and to gain critical intelligence.

The Republican lawmakers praised that decision and also said they were encouraged that a so-called high-value detainee interrogation team was involved in the investigation.

The group was created after President Barack Obama ordered the shutdown of a CIA program in which militant suspects were held in a network of secret prisons during the administration of President George W. Bush.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Vicki Allen in Washington; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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