What do you guys think about the whole Miranda Rights thing in regards to the marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?
There has been a lot of opinion pieces about the whole issue. I think this one was the first I saw somebody post on FB, but there have been others.
I am probably in a bit over my head with this whole thing, but my basic understanding is that when someone is arrested, before interrogation, the police/law enforcement are required to remind the person of their Miranda Rights and confirm that the person understands before proceeding with the interrogation.
...otherwise, the statements by the person in custody cannot be used in as evidence against them in a trial. The exception being when there may be an immediate threat to public safety, as when an officer asks the person where his/her gun is, in order to ensure no further harm will occur. This, I understand, is what has been cited as to why Tsarnaev was not read his Miranda Rights. So, if the government is not intending to use Tsarnaev's confession in the trial, then it doesn't matter that his Miranda Rights weren't read prior to the confession. If the confession is to be used, then it matters whether or not the public safety exception is appropriately applied.You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?
I have heard two sides of issues with the failure to Mirandize Tsarnaev if it turns out that the public safety exception was invoked incorrectly:
- Will there still be enough evidence to convict Tsarnaev? and a general opinion seems to be that yes there probably will be.
- Are we, as a country, ok with this approach and the implications for American citizens? The potentiality for a "slippery slope" in terms of the type of information deemed immediately relevant to public safety? I would say few people have a problem when this is applied to a suspected/likely terrorist, but I guess what some fear is that the "public safety" will continue to be applied more and more indiscriminately, that Miranda serves as a sort of power check to law enforcement/prosecution.
I thought this quote from The Atlantic summed it up pretty well, reasonably, but I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.
Specifically, in a case such as this one, where it seems likely both that the government will have overwhelming evidence to convict (without relying on any post-arrest statements) and that Tsarnaev may be in possession of valuable information that implicates national security, the rationale behind the government's choice emerges: Even if the public-safety exception is determined to have been wrongfully invoked, this would not threaten the government's case in a meaningful way. One may certainly contest whether the Court's shifting on Miranda is correct or whether the government's choice not to Mirandize Tsarnaev is desirable as a policy matter. Nor have the media been wrong to question the government's broad interpretation of the public-safety exception. But it is misleading to paint the decision not to Mirandize as trampling Tsarnaev's constitutional rights as an American citizen.
As of the publication of this piece, Tsarnaev has regained consciousness and has been charged with, among other things, use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death. That the rule of law governs Tsarnaev's prosecution is paramount. To that end, thinking clearly about what the rule of law requires is just as crucial.