Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Friend and The ‘High Out of His Mind’ Defense

In this May 15, 2014 file photo, Robel Phillipos, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arrives at federal court before a hearing in Boston.
In this May 15, 2014 file photo, Robel Phillipos, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arrives at federal court before a hearing in Boston. –AP

Robel Phillipos, the friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who allegedly obstructed the investigation into the 2013 attack, is arguing that he was too high to lie to authorities. It does not look like anyone was impressed.

The Boston Herald’s Peter Gelzinis called it “pure reefer madness’’ and basically assumed it was the defense team’s only option. The defense team “had to say something,’’ he wrote this morning. And that’s probably true: When you’re fighting obstruction of justice charges tied to such a horrific case, it’s rarely your best bet to go into court without any sort of argument about your innocence. So this is what they brought.

Advertisement

Gawker’s appropriately-named Andy Cush wondered whether there was even any validity to the claim. Can you be so high that you can’t remember something as basic as what you did earlier that day? Not in Cush’s experience. “I have been stoned—terrifyingly, paralyzingly stoned—many times in my life, but I’ve never been even close to completely blacking out. I’m not even sure that’s possible,’’ he wrote. We’re not sure if Cush or anyone with similar experience will be called to the stand, but that would make for very interesting testimony.

When asked to give her take, Substance.com columnist Maia Szalavitz told Boston.com, “It’s certainly the case that while high, people are cognitively impaired and their memory of events may not be accurate, so I don’t think it is ‘reefer madness’ to make that type of claim, though it sounds like there could be some exaggeration in it.’’ As a leading neuroscience and addiction journalist, Szalavitz actually has some expertise to go on, and even she thinks “high out of his mind’’ might be a bit much.

The Twitter response was just as unenthusiastic, ranging from utter disbelief to plain-old mocking.

Loading Comments...