After the capture of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, civil rights activists and officials are disputing whether it was acceptable for police to deprive him of his Miranda rights, and whether he should be classified as an enemy combatant and denied a lawyer.
Justice officials confirmed that the 19-year-old was not read his rights—including the right to remain silent—after being cornered and captured by police during a 22-hour manhunt in Watertown, Mass., on Friday night.
U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz claimed “a public safety exception” applied in the case. The justification is that Tsarnaev could provide information about unexploded bombs or tell officials about other terrorist plots. The exception allows law enforcement agents to interrogate the suspect without warning and use any information collected as evidence in courts.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the decision. “Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights,” the group said in a statement. “The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule.
“Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waiver from our tried and true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.”
Some elected officials welcomed the decision however. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham joined forces with Arizona Sen. John McCain, calling for Tsarnaev to be classified as an enemy combatant and denied a lawyer. Graham tweeted: “The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent.’ ”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
In a joint statement carried on Graham’s Facebook page, the pair said: “It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city.
“The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorist[s] trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans.”
It continued: “We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now.
“Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel. Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks.”
A crowd cheers at Boston Common after the final suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was arrested Friday.