Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, confessed Sunday to participating with his older brother Tamerlan in the April 15 Boston Marathon bomb attacks that killed three people, a law enforcement source told the Boston Globe.
The Globe reports that Tsarnaev confessed before being read his Miranda rights, which in ordinary circumstances could result in the confession being thrown out of court. FBI investigators chose not to read him these rights, which include the rights to remain silence and to have a lawyer, citing a "public safety exception."
An explanation of the exception on the FBI's website says the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1980 case New York v. Quarles that "failure to administer Miranda warnings does not, standing alone, make a confession involuntary in violation of the Constitution."
Tsnarnaev was arrested on Friday night in Watertown, Mass., following a day-long manhunt that shut down most of the Boston area. His older brother and alleged accomplice was killed in a gunfight with police the previous night and was reportedly run over by a car driven by Dzhokhar as the younger brother escaped.
Several defense attorneys who spoke with the Boston Herald pointed to the possibility of leniency for Dzhokhar, who faces the death penalty under the federal charges that were announced Monday. He is charged with "use of a weapon of mass destruction" and "malicious destruction of property resulting in death."
Most media reports have characterized the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, as the mastermind of the attacks. The older brother visited southern Russia for six months last year and was investigated by the FBI at the request of the Russian government, which suspected him of being an Islamic radical. He reportedly argued with pro-U.S. clerics at a Massachusetts mosque and his uncle said he espoused a delusional religiosity during their last visit.
"We know he's 19 years old, we don't think he has a criminal record or been in trouble before. There are a lot of people out there that seem to have warm, positive things about him," attorney Tamar Birckhead, who defended failed airline "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, told the Herald. "To predict he'll get a life sentence is not unreasonable."
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who defended assisted-suicide activist Jack Kevorkian, told the Herald, "[t]his case is ripe for somebody who's got the courage to stand up and talk about the system and the railroading of criminal defendants."
Tsarnaev has "been denied the right to a fair trial. And America's ... cheering like it was some kind of sporting event. That wasn't a very flattering image to the rest of the world. Cheering like they won the World Series," Fieger said.