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One week later, Fick was at Tsarnaev’s bedside as U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler asked the teen, recovering from gunshot wounds, if he understood the charges against him and that he could face the death penalty.
Debates had swirled in Washington the weekend before about whether Dzhokhar should be held as an enemy combatant, as South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham proposed, to face a military tribunal instead of a terrorism charges in federal civilian court. (This despite the fact that Dzhokhar is a US citizen, having been granted citizenship in a ceremony at Cambridge city hall on September 11, 2012.) The transcript showed Judge Browler decisively put such grandstanding to rest.
“Do you understand everything I have said about the right to remain silent?” Bowler asked.
“Defendant nods affirmatively,” the transcript notes.
“You have the right to an attorney at this initial appearance, during any questioning, at all proceedings at court,” Bowler said. “Can you afford a lawyer?”
“No,” the defendant said — the only word Tsarnaev is recorded as saying in the appearance.
“Let the record reflect that the defendant has said ‘No,’” Bowler continued. “I have provisionally appointed Mr. Fick to represent you in this matter.”
“Ordinarily I would be asking the bail question,” the judge said, presumably looking around the hospital room to indicate the unlikeliness of the defendant asking for bail.
“I am going to defer that question at this time, your Honor, and agree to detention without prejudice,” Fick responds.
“The government has no objection to the defendant having access to his counsel,” US prosecutor Weinreb says.
The people doing their jobs soberly and methodically in Tsarnaev’s hospital room that day live and work in the city that experienced the trauma of his actions firsthand. They will help bring justice and accountability to those responsible for killing, maiming and endangering their neighbors, children, students, and co-workers.
They might also eventually provide some answers for the rest of us. It’s a system that makes me very proud for our country, despite the painful questions that remain about why this happened.
Laura Rozen writes the Back Channel column for Al-Monitor. She previously served as a foreign policy reporter for the magazine Foreign Policy and for the websites Politico and Yahoo! News. You can follow her on Twitter at @lrozen