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Court Reporter there for First Meeting with Boston Terror Suspect

Court Reporter there for First Meeting with Boston Terror Suspect

A court reporter was among the first legal employees to visit Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, after he was arrested following an extensive manhunt through the neighborhoods of Boston. 

On April 15, three people were killed and hundreds were injured in two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three days later, the FBI announced two suspects — Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev — and released their photos.

Tamerlan was killed in an altercation with authorities, but Dzhokhar managed to escape, kicking off a manhunt in Boston’s Watertown neighborhood that lasted for days and kept residents on lockdown. On April 19, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught hiding in a boat just outside the police perimeter.

A court reporter was there for Tsarnaev's first hearing (source)

A court reporter was there for Tsarnaev’s first hearing (source)

On April 22, Tsarnaev was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction. He could receive the death penalty for the charge. But in such an unprecedented case, the court’s initial hearing with Tsarnaev was unconventional. And the situation presented a number of challenges for court reporter James Gibbons.

Holding court in a hospital room

For starters, Tsarnaev couldn’t be brought to a courtroom for a more traditional hearing. Instead, the judge, clerk, lawyers and court reporters had to go to him in his room in the intensive care ward of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

That certainly put Gibbons out of his comfort zone, to say the least, on a case with major legal and cultural implications that’s sure to be heavily scrutinized at every step in the process.

He could barely speak

What’s more, Tsarnaev had suffered several gunshot wounds, including one authorities are saying was self-inflicted to his neck. He could barely speak, making transcribing the proceedings even more difficult for Gibbons.

Reports say the suspect mostly shook and nodded his head throughout the interaction.

He only spoke once. When the judge asked him if he could afford a lawyer, he said “no.”

In many cases, Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler indicated for the court reporter’s record that the defendant had indicated a yes or no answer. In other instances, Gibbons had to note “Defendant nods head affirmatively.”

Read the official transcript here.

The hearing was held in a hospital room (source)

The hearing was held in a hospital room (source)

The meeting was brief and largely procedural. Later in the weekend Tsarnaev gave federal law enforcement officials more details about the nature of the attack and said he was not aware of other acts of terror planned.

But it’s the start of a long, complicated legal processes. Having a court reporter there was essential to the proceedings. And in a case that has emotions running high for people across the country, a court reporter’s dedication to accuracy and professionalism was no doubt a necessary element.

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