A federal judge has dealt a blow to investigators hoping to interrogate Paul Ciancia, the man accused of killing a TSA agent at Los Angeles International Airport last week.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick appointed a public defender to represent Ciancia on Monday, over the objections of the U.S. Attorney's Office. According to court filings, investigators in the case had hoped to interview Ciancia before he acquired representation "on the possible existence of co-conspirators, organizational support for his actions, and other violent plots about which Ciancia could have knowledge."
Criminal defendants, once represented by an attorney, can opt to have their attorney present during any questioning and are informed of their right to remain silent.
Ciancia, meanwhile, is described as "hospitalized and under heavy sedation due to gunshot wounds sustained at the scene." His injuries, which include being shot in the face, have "prevented him from speaking with anyone," according to court papers.
The debate over when to appoint counsel and when to read a defendant his or her Miranda Rights has come up before. Courts have, in the past, allowed a public safety exception to the defendant's right to representation. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who along with his deceased brother are accused of setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon, was questioned for 16 hours before being read his rights.
Ciancia has been charged with killing an officer of the United States and violence at international airports, both potentially punishable by death.
Ciancia entered LAX's Terminal 3 on November 1 and pulled a semiautomatic rifle out of his bag, according to police. Ciancia is accused of fatally shooting TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez before shooting several other TSA officers and at least one traveler as he made his way through the terminal, according to police. The shooting spree came to an end when officers with the LAX Police Department shot Ciancia.
The shooting shut down one of the world's busiest airport for hours, disrupting the plans of thousands of travelers.
Hernandez, the first TSA officer killed while on duty, will be honored at a memorial service scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles.