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Massachusetts State Police will conduct an internal investigation into a department photographer’s release of gritty images of the surviving Boston Marathon suspect after Rolling Stone ran a cover photo of him.
The photos released to Boston Magazine on Thursday by state police tactical photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy show a downcast, disheveled Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the red dot of sniper’s rifle laser sight on his forehead.
He says his photos show the “real Boston bomber, not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.” The pictures were taken when Tsarnaev was captured April 19, bleeding and hiding in a dry-docked boat in a Watertown backyard.
State police spokesman David Procopio says the agency did not authorize the release of the photos and will investigate Murphy’s actions.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, a year after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, we'll check in with one of the victims.
YOUNG: But first, more fallout from the Boston bombings. The state police officer who released official photos of the capture of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face a hearing to determine if he'll be suspended. Sean Murphy, a tactical photographer and 25-year veteran who took the pictures during the massive manhunt for the suspect, told Boston magazine that his images showed the real Boston bomber, not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone.
In an interview with CNN, Boston magazine's editor John Wolfson said his publication received hundreds more photos and plans to release them soon.
JOHN WOLFSON: They're very, very dramatic, and I think this is important to say, Sergeant Murphy also really wanted the focus, in terms of the heroism here, to be on the law enforcement officers. There's a lot of really dramatic photos of what they were up to, as well.
YOUNG: Kevin Cullen is a Boston Globe columnist. Kevin, what do you know about Sean Murphy?
KEVIN CULLEN: He's very well-known and very respected, particularly in the state police. I mean, if there's a crime scene in and around Boston, it's - you'd very often see Sean there.
YOUNG: And we understand that he was working solo. He was the sole photographer on the day of this manhunt and shutdown of the city and final capture of the bombing suspect.
CULLEN: Yeah, I would think he, like most law enforcement people at that site, would have had been up from anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.
YOUNG: And we're hearing there are other pictures. Just with your sense of having covered police and law enforcement for so long, to release these kinds of pictures, your sense of how that's reverberating?
CULLEN: I get the sense, and I can't say that I have done a scientific poll of most police officers, I think you have - a lot of law enforcement would say, you know, good for Sean, but at the same time they know what he did was wrong. And the question is would many others - he obviously did something in a very emotional state.
I know he's particularly friendly with the - with Sean Collier the MIT officer who was murdered. I know he's friendly with Sean's brothers and sisters. So I think he reacted in defense of them because he knows that they've had to sit through this the last week, listening to all the talk about the Rolling Stone cover and the sort of sympathetic portrait that appeared of this fellow, and I think he reacted - he actually said it, that he was sort of, in his mind, sticking up for people like the Collier family.
And I'm sure that the Collier family will support Sean 100 percent.
YOUNG: Well, there's sympathy across the country judging by social media, again because there was such outrage over the Rolling Stone cover. I'm looking at some of the pictures, front page of your paper and again in Boston magazine. There's the bombing suspect with a sniper's laser, a red dot, on his forehead. Here are some other pictures: A sniper's view from a home of the boat in which he was hiding; various different pictures of these, you know, law enforcement in full gear, gas masks on, in this suburban neighborhood.
The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case calls the leak unacceptable. Others are saying that it's going to make it harder to impanel an impartial jury.
CULLEN: I find that a little over the top, if you ask me, the idea that the - most people who have followed this would be influenced by these photographs, as opposed to everything else that's been in their consciousness. I think it will be very difficult to find a - what you would call an impartial juror to try this kid.
The flip side of this, I'd be very shocked if it goes to trial, Robin. He has two of the best death penalty advocates in terms of, you know, opposing the death penalty, Judy Clark in particular. Their spin right now is they've got to get this kid to plea, and the only thing he has to play with, the only thing he can offer the government, is to plead guilty, and they remove the idea of the death penalty.
So I'd be shocked if this goes to trial, but I really think people are protesting a bit too much on this. You could argue that the sympathetic portrait that was printed in Rolling Stone would taint a jury pool as much as the photos would.
YOUNG: Meanwhile, Sean Murphy, the photographer, is also a liaison to families of fallen officers. So he writes in the statement that he made when he released the pictures: I hope that people who see these will know it's real. It's not a TV show. People died. Do you think - he's been relieved of duty. An internal investigation is happening. If he loses his job completely, do you think there will be a backlash?
CULLEN: Oh, I think there would be. I don't think he's going to lose his job. I'm trying to think of any comparable case, and frankly I can't. You know, these are photographs that would probably be entered into evidence in the case against Mr. Tsarnaev. So I don't know. It's one of those things, they're going to make it up as they go along.
And I think obviously the political reaction to this or the public reaction to this will in effect determine at least part the way the state police handled this.
YOUNG: Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, thanks so much.
CULLEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.