Photograph: MSN
Editors note: This was inspired by an anonymous information submission that presented several great questions for discussion. 

Was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fully capable of writing his confession while in the boat? Where did the writing implement come from? These are just a few of the questions that people have surrounding Dzhokhar’s alleged note and, as of right now, it’s not likely that they will be answered before the trial. 

To support the discussion, the following are related events that happened according to The Guardian:

  • Dzhokhar fled the Watertown shootout scene some time before 2:50am ET on April 19
  • On the same day, he was found in the boat around 7:08pm
  • He was captured at approximately 8:05pm
  • The "lockdown" was lifted at approximately 6:16pm

It seems plausible, though possibly unlikely that Dzhokhar could have written his note later in the evening. An observation that the submitter made was that decent light may not have been available to compose a note, Even though we do not know exactly what time Dzhokhar decided to hide in the boat, there could have been an ample amount of time for him to write it during the day. 

An additional aspect to consider are the injuries he may have sustained from the shootout that morning. Information on Dzhokhar’s injuries from this time are still vague, but if he were badly injured, this leads to the question of whether or not he was physically and mentally stable to formulate a written confession. Could he have been stable enough to write the note if he was losing a lot of blood? Did his injuries not deter him from having the ability to write? In the thermal images and recent video of the boat there is limited movement of the suspect but this is not an adequate representation of possible movement during the entire time he was in the boat. 

If there was limited suffering from his injuries when he allegedly wrote the confession, then the more serious injuries could have been caused by the police shooting during his capture. This indicates that writing a confession was actually entirely possible. To come to any definitive conclusions however, more details are needed on what exactly occurred between the police and Dzhokhar that evening prior to capture.

In regards to the writing instrument Dzhokhar used, it’s not impossible to find one on a boat or have something actually available on hand. However, It does seem unlikely that Dzhokhar would have tried to find a pen or marker to write with while hiding from authorities.  Several news outlets have reported that a marker was utilized to write the confession while others have stated Dzhokhar wrote with a pen. For example, CBS states the note was “scrawled with a marker on the interior wall of the cabin” and NY Daily News mentions it was “scrawled in pen on a bullet-riddled wall of the boat”. 

Details of the confession include the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing being referred to as “collateral damage” and that an “attack on one Muslim is an attack on all”. What can we make of these types of statements? Is there more than one possible meaning that can be extracted? Dzhokhar also allegedly claimed he would not miss older brother Tamerlan because he would "soon be joining him”. 

Some people have taken this to mean Dzhokhar intended to commit suicide, with CBS considering the note to be “part suicide”. Dzhokhar may have been unable to commit suicide, even if he wished to do so, as we are now aware that he was unarmed while hiding in the boat. Another way that this message could be interpreted is that the suspect may have assumed that the police did not want to take him alive. These are only two of many other possibilities that could stand to reason why Dzhokhar thought he would be with Tamerlan soon.

Here are some photos showing different angles of the boat after the capture. Although these give us an idea of where Dzhokhar could have written the note, we cannot say for sure where he did write it because of the lack of numerous, close-up photos available to the public. 
Photograph: Northjersey.com
Photograph: Gawker.com
The alleged confession was written in the boat on April 19, yet major news outlets only started reporting the details a month later. Officials had searched the boat after Dzhokhar was captured, why then were details released so much later? Where the details leaked on accident? On purpose? Why?

With the information that we know, how do you think this confession will impact Dzhokhar’s trial? What other details are important to consider?


6/7/2013 04:39:35 am

This is rubbish - the only thing it does is create public hysteria. Get a forensic handwriting expert approved by both the prosecution and the defense and resolve it. And no we cannot say he was lying down and shaky so his i's are not dotted and t's are not crossed. Done and done they should resolve it before court date. Also is this case going to trial jury or grand jury? Especially since he (Jahar) didn't have that probable cause hearing in May.

Really there's so much more meat to this case. Like the exact time he allegedly fled watertown ... aha!

6/7/2013 05:00:13 am

*sorry, I didn't mean the post I meant the attention given to this boat confession. No harm intended towards the editorial team. You guys are doing a great job!

6/7/2013 05:04:27 am

Dzhokhar fled the Watertown shootout scene some time before 2:50am ET on April 19


Tamerlan's official time of death is 1:35am and the end of the Laurel st shootout is generally believed to be around 12:50.

I don't think either side of this case can put the "boat note" into the win column until more is known.

As for the side of guilt, ill say this...

He could have been in the boat for as many as 16-17 hours provided we found it within a couple of hours of fleeing Laurel st. It's a pretty big boat and I'm sure there were some personal effects aboard. The idea that a pen or marker has no place on a boat is silly. It's like saying you'd never find a pen in a cars glovebox. Personally, I would have been scouring that boat hoping somebody left some cigarettes behind.

6/7/2013 05:39:32 am

haha Joker maybe he was looking arnd for a half eaten sandwich. No seriously, my guess would be he fell asleep/ collapsed. After all that adrenaline rush his body probably just shut down. Which makes sense when someone says he didn't run when the boat owner found him or lifted the tarp.

Did he have his phone on him at this point? Why didn't the authorities track him using his phone? And if we are to be balanced here he allegedly (and there's no way for me to confirm) updated his facebook account saying 'I never did it, forgive me Father'. Only one of his own friends can confirm this although the authorities probably took down his account quickly (for legal reasons). I saw it floating around the Internet in April.

6/7/2013 10:28:07 am

Joker - as a sailor, I have to say that anyone that would winterize his boat and leave an ink reservoir (a pen or marker) in it does not love his boat and so it wouldn't even make sense for them to winterize it. It is not the same as leaving a pen in a car at all; you go back into the car all the time and might need the pen, and if you have an expensive sports car, you still wouldn't leave stuff hanging around. As far as a boat, you empty the boat and never let anything be left in it that could damage it. Winter in Massachusetts would cause the pen to freeze and the reservoir possibly burst. It would be a neglectful owner that would do such a thing. That would be like leaving a spilled coffee in there.

6/7/2013 04:11:36 pm

Good grief. You make a ballpoint pen sound like a hand grenade.
Maybe the owner wasn't the disciplined seaman you seem to be. Maybe he didn't have an irrational fear of frozen pens. Maybe Jahar kept a pen in his pocket.

Why not just say "I'll buy the note story when I see it" ?

6/7/2013 04:35:04 pm

great observation Shelley

6/8/2013 12:54:32 am

I agree with Shelley. As a boat owner, I would not leave anything in the boat that could damage by bursting, like pens. In fact, you would not ever find a pen on my boat. There's no need for one. That boat he hid in, has a cabin but it looks like a cuddy cabin with room for a bed only. They said the note was written on cabin wall in the hull of the boat. That boat was shrink wrapped and there's no way light was getting in the cabin of a shrink wrapped boat. I've crawled into my boat with the cover partially loose to get something and its black in there. I don't think it's possible that he found a marker or pen in the dark and wrote a note. It couldn't be a pen either, they most likely wouldn't leave markings on slick fiberglass walls.

6/7/2013 05:41:43 am

True that's wat I was thinking that y did they told us about the note so late! that just proves it there that they just want dzhokhar death and because they didn't had anything else so they are trying to add anything against jahar as possible

6/7/2013 05:51:22 am

This just crossed my mind and it's a speculation: what if jahar did write those things on the boat but it was because of what happened at Watertown and was not related to the actual bombings. Maybe he was mad at how he and his brother were blamed for it, chased down and shot at? i don't think there was anything that claimed direct responsibility of the bombings.

truth seeker
6/15/2013 01:06:57 am

I was thinking the same. If he were in fact framed, I can't say I wouldn't write "f**k America" as well.

But I still don't believe in this "confession".

6/7/2013 06:52:03 am

I don't think we could say for sure what exactly was written if some thing was. The media has been out to attack the brothers since they started reporting on them. I think they only shared parts of the note that would help in their interpretation of it.

John Baxter
6/7/2013 07:52:33 am

I recall hearing when he was originally caught reports that he said f**k America which wasn't confirmed and people said he couldn't have said it with his throat injury and tube down his throat. Just wonder if some one just got the wrong info and it was actually on the boat written. I also wonder if it was this note that lead to the questions he was asked in the hospital because they're very similar. The note on the boat is very convenient to the prosecutors it would seem that the two brothers made it so easy to be caught and prosecuted for this e.g. Turning his hat backwards so his face could be shown, leaving the note, driving around in a traceable vehicle. It's just so weird.

6/7/2013 10:30:20 am

I read that the f- America comment was written in 'the note.' Though I do not believe it. See my full comment below.

6/7/2013 10:46:59 am

I also remember the reports that said he was swearing a lot, and then suddenly he couldn't speak at all. I think any of us would be swearing if we were supposedly innocent and just went through that gunfight!

I also agree that if they are guilty, they are the most incompetent terrorists ever! It would seem if you would take the time to make a bomb, you would plan the whole thing out better. That's one of the things that make me skeptical of the whole thing.

I'm pretty sure I saw the Facebook note too, so I would think that is where he would leave the confession.

I don't think he wrote a note on the boat.

6/7/2013 11:06:21 am

What you say is very key and yet is getting lost in the details by the media and some of the public. If they could go to the trouble of pulling off a terrorist attack effectively, how did they somehow become so incompetent in the aftermath??

John Baxter
6/8/2013 03:38:13 am

Also I know I say this case doesn't make sense to me many times. Then sometimes I think we'll bombing innocent people isn't an example of a person who sees sense. Maybe that's the link in the whole thing they're minds had become warped therefore making sensible decisions wouldn't be possible.

Still with the boat note not being officially recognised at this point we just don't know. I personally think they're would be more of a buzz or protection cover over the boat to protect this important note.

6/16/2013 04:24:00 pm

The fact that they were incompetent seems to point to the Tsarnaev brothers even more to me. From what I've heard about them, Tamerlan and Jahar definitely weren't career criminals and likely had little experience building bombs, etc. It at least rules out a professional terror group and the government (which some say is behind it).

6/7/2013 10:46:27 am

I personally feel that the note was forged since it started to surface that his so called hospital confession was inadequate due to him being under the influence of strong pain meds. I remember them saying after his capture over and over that they were trying to discover his motives. They wouldn't need to discover any motives if it was right there in the boat. I think its bullshit to be honest. Why would it take that long to come out? There's nothing that would harm anyone else or the case for it to come out immediately. My theory is it took that long because they

6/24/2013 11:07:29 am

I think they assumed he would not survive long after the interrogation in the hospital and they would not have to deal with admissibility of that "confession" at trial. Then when he did survive they created a new confession in the boat that they think will be admissible. If it turns out that his hand injury made writing impossible, what will they think of next?

6/7/2013 10:54:30 am

had to search his place first and get enough expertise to have someone do it in his handhandwriting. One thing I never noticed though until just now looking at the first picture is all the bullet marks exactly where he exited. Ironically the video posted about him yelling I'm coming out seems to have an audio that appears to match the picture. I am literally haunted about this whole thing because I can't help but think what did they do to this poor boy? Can you blame someone who hasn't seen the bombing video, evidence of him with a gun, or basically any evidence of his guilt whatsoever? I hate the fact that so many people just accept what's said on the daily news as a fact. Thank you to everyone on here with your objectiveness. I'm glad I'm not alone and I love hearing all of your input regardless of which side you're leaning towards.

6/7/2013 11:02:45 am

There is an interesting thread that goes through the Boston Bombing story that I find rather suspect. That is John Miller - he is the former Assistant Director of the FBI, and he works for CBS News as a consultant. The story of the 'note in the boat' came from John Miller. He, allegedly, scooped it. He was the first one to tell the story, and most other news outlets credited CBS News and Miller with the information. At the time of the report, CBS stated that Miller scooped the story. This shows a snippet of his original report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usnc71F6wVQ
For some reason, I can't find the original segment from the CBS morning show. When I saw this, I thought Miller came off as a kid with a chocolate-covered face telling his mom that he really didn't eat those cookies. (It was the FBI that went to 'interview' Todashev in Florida and claimed to have received his full confession along with an implication of Tamerlan in the murders in Waltham right before they shot him for lunging at the FBI agent with a knife - gun - shiny object - samarai sword - oh wait, nothing.) John Miller has been the source of some of the more damning conjecture regarding Dzhokhar such as this alleged boat note. I cannot help but wonder if he is, in fact, retired from the FBI, or if he is still on their payroll. Why would a non-religious, friendly, social, pot-smokin' hippie college student write a jihadist suicide note while desperately trying to preserve his own life? This story does not pass the smell test.

6/7/2013 11:13:24 am

Giveusthetruth and Shelley, I wholeheartedly agree with both of you! I sometimes feel guilty feeling sympathy for him, so when you referred to him as "a poor boy", it made me feel better.
Shelley, I also agree, everything that has been reported about him, his twitter account, the videos all make him seem so incapable of this!

I know brothers influence one another, but to convince an intelligent kid to do a terrorist attack! It seems hard to believe

John Baxter
6/7/2013 12:13:58 pm

In the complaint against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev it states that one says to the car jacking victim that he did it but not mention of a confession on the boat. The note could refer to many things like a last note but not necessarily be a confession especially with bullet holes in it.
I really think they should look into who is leaking info to the press you'd think confidentiality would be a requirement for the prosecutions case in case evidence got thrown out. I think you'd find it difficult to find a jury who hadn't been majorly exposed to this.

6/8/2013 02:51:04 am

Uh-oh. I see "Shelly" is now corroborating "Shelley"'s exploding pen theory. It's a conspiracy! And now white nylon acts as a blackout shade. Saying there's no need for a pen on a boat is like saying there's no need for a fishing pole in your house so why would there be one in somebody's closet.

Ill tell you what. Tonight ill put a pen in my freezer. If it bursts, he's innocent. If not he's the bomber. Fair?

Just don't blame me if someone named "Jaker" comes to my aid.

Sorry but if you're going to make ridiculous claims and theories then you will get ridiculous responses.

6/8/2013 03:09:01 am


Try, please, to help another commenter understand why you don't feel their proposal is plausible instead of responding sarcastically.

The discussion is to assist one another, why not explaining without downplaying their comments?

You've got a lot of great things to contribute that could help other people, use them for good!



6/8/2013 05:06:59 am

Try, please, to help another commenter understand why you don't feel their proposal is plausible instead of responding sarcastically.


I did that above and all I got was another seafaring Shelly with bursting pen theories and the apparent futility of having a writing implement on a boat.

I had one of the first comments on this thread and I said neither side could put the boat note in the win column.

How about we spend a day speculating why a boy with both hands deep in social media had nothing to say about the terrorist attack that he was 100 feet away from. Would that be fair? No. Because it in itself is proof of nothing and our opinions on the matter would be nothing more than speculation. Now there's nothing wrong with raising logical questions about possible evidence or attempting to create reasonable doubt. But I don't think the frozen pen theory qualifies. It dumbs down the discussion.

6/8/2013 04:54:07 am

Does anyone remember initially hearing that the note was carved into the boat?

6/11/2013 02:15:30 am

That's what I heard first. And also that it was destroyed by the bullets. Then the note thing came up. But the thing is, so many days have passed since the investigators examined the boat. Why would they release such a condemning information so many days after Jahar was moved from hospital? Something stinks here, I'm afraid!

6/15/2013 01:36:54 am

I just wrote a huge paragraph when my computer decided it was time to shut down to update! Let's see if I can do this again.

If I had to guess, I would say most, if not all, of Dzhokhar's time in that boat was spent sleeping. After the adrenaline and physical exertion that was involved in the shootout and running from the trigger-happy police, he most likely collapsed from exhaustion as soon as he got into the boat. This would explain why the owner of the boat described him as a "crumpled up body". However, does this mean that he did not write this "confession" in there? No, but I find it highly unlikely. Not just because he was sleeping, but it is nearly, if not completely, impossible to write on fiberglass with a pen. Also, I KNOW how hard it is to write on an upright surface, such as a wall, versus a flat surface such as a desk. The pen stops working after about two words. So if the official claim is that he wrote in pen, I call bull. Unfortunately I can't attest to the level of darkness in the boat; I've never been in a covered boat.

Also, like someone said earlier, why wasn't it mentioned earlier? Why can you not see anything in the pictures of the boat? Why is it not in the criminal complaint? Why was it conveniently revealed after many people realized his confession under heavy medication, before he was read his rights, was useless?


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