Miranda rights in Boston


It’s the age-old dilemma, the stuff of dozens of thrillers and action movies: You’ve captured a guy who knows exactly where a bomb has been planted, and it’s going to explode in 30 minutes and kill thousands of people. Do you bother to read him his Miranda rights and encourage him to speak to an attorney before he answers any questions?

In the movies, no: You shoot him in the knee, or break his fingers one by one, or waterboard him until he talks, and then with seconds to spare, you rappel down the side of a giant building, crash through the glass door, and disarm the bomb. No sweat.
In real life, it’s a bit more tricky -- particularly when the suspect, an American citizen, hasn’t even been arrested yet, but can’t go anywhere because he has a bullet hole in his throat.

I can get the initial instinct: When FBI agents grabbed 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, they wanted to be sure he didn’t know of any other devices that were about to go off. If they’d refused to read him the Miranda warning and even used “enhanced interrogation techniques” and he’d said: “Hey, OK, I give up, there’s another bomb about to go off,” and they’d found it and saved lives, well...we’d have some Zero Dark Thirty debates, but at least there would have been a point.

In this case, it appears he has said no such thing, and no other bombs connected to him have gone off. There may be evidence that later emerges showing that the normally illegal interrogation saved lives, but so far, it looks as if all the feds have done is compiled information they can try to use against him in court.

Which is a problem.

It’s really, really hard to be even remotely sympathetic here -- the guy (allegedly) killed three people, including an eight-year-old, and wounded many more, including a lot of amputations. He terrorized the Boston Marathon. I’m not even remorely suggesting that he get any special treatment. If he’s guilty -- and the evidence at this point is pretty solid -- then he’s going away for life. (Unless the federal prosecutors foolishly seek the death penalty, which would turn him into a martyr.)

But you can’t just decide that this guy is a bad guy and so the Miranda rule doesn’t matter. There are all sorts of really horrible criminals arrested in the United States, and they all have the right to remain silent, to avoid self-incrimination, and to have an attorney present before they say anything.

There’s a whole cottage industry of cops and prosecutors finding ways to avoid the Miranda warnings, which is not only unConstitutional but somewhat nutty, because Miranda almost never hurts a criminal investigation or prosecution. The Boston Bomber’s case won’t rest on what he told investigators from his hospital bed. In fact, I tend to agree with what law professor David Harris says:

The Obama administration's interpretation of the public safety exception is suspect; its announcement that no Miranda rights would be given was transparently political, aimed at avoiding criticism from conservative quarters. Worst of all, the administration seemed to be telling the public that Miranda warnings are just petty rules -- another instance of hyper-technical laws that get in the way of real justice. This is dead wrong, and it shows grave disrespect for the rule of law and the Constitution -- the very things that make our country great.

I would guess that now that Tsarnaev has a lawyer, he’s hearing the grim reality of his situation: Unless there's something we really don't know, and he's got some astonishing claim of innocence, ("my brother made me do it" won't work) he’s never going to get out of prison, and everything that the legal team does from this point on is about saving his life. He’ll wind up, most likely, pleading guilty to a crime that gives him life without parole, if prosecutors drop the death penalty.

We’ll never know exactly what happened when the FBI gave Tsarnaev a pencil and paper and asked for written answers to interrogation, because that evidence likely won’t be made public. But I suspect that the first thing the agents asked was whether there were any more bombs, and once they got that answer, they should have stopped and issued the Constitutional warnings. Which they almost certainly didn’t.

I know this is speculative, but it’s the reason the Miranda rules are in place. Because we shouldn’t have to speculate on this stuff; we should know that the federal government doesn’t think the “Miranda warnings are just petty rules.”


He has been read his Moranda rights. He was initially asked if there were any other bombs before he was given the Miranda rights but as I understand that is ok if an imediate threat is suspected (which in this case seems realistic).
Not sure what your point it here, as you seem to have missed part of the story.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... yeah, the LAW, it's protections and guarantees ... ha,ha,ha. Ask any INNOCENT GUANTANAMO victim or maybe even the non thought of VICTIMS of our DRONE wars ... yes, the LAW ENFORCERS as law breakers ...

Sort of reminds me of my Federal Lawsuit against CCSF for denial of EMERGENCY services (C02-3485PJH) that was thrown out on TESTILYING and FRAUD only for the city to sign a CONFESSION / SETTLEMENT Agreemetn years later with the OFFICE of Inpspector General admitting fault and guilt ... http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle2.html yet leaving their INNOCENT VINDICATED VICTIM for DEAD and now that I have sought services again ... the lawbreaking continues ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo

Now watch the what the sheriff says in regard to the city attorney and DA not prosecuting ... (watch all 6 sheriff videos 11/27 ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYC-syG0D7Y and watch what the DA's office tells me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eN41g_veF8 ... something about NOT CARING FOR MY LEGAL RIGHTS.

And now the city attorney is spouting about patient dumping from Las Vegas http://blog.sfgate.com/cityinsider/2013/04/23/city-attorney-dennis-herre... what about ARRESTING DPH for the CRIMINAL FRAUD, denial of services, access and accommodation, ADA rights, etc? Well I could take the Sheriff's advise (11/27 videos) and go back to DPH so that on 12/19 they could break the law again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFd-KtS8Zss

So before the city attorney goes after Las Vegas ... what about our own DPH lawbreaking activity and by the way what ever happened in regard to the city attorney in case C02-3485PJH where the city later signed a confession ... does the word HYPOCRITE ... mean anything ... was this case under a different city attorney (NO) and was that case NOT in regard to Patient Dumping and exactly what is the difference now that DPH is denying TREATMENT?

So I hope you feel protected when rights are diminished and unprotected ... however it does make good print for the papers and city attorney. However DO NOT under any circumstance assume that they care or are doing RIGHT by you and me ... quite the OPPOSITE.

Why NOT the MIRANDA rights ... because they can. Why does DPH break the LAW ... because it can. Why does the city attorney stand behind his accessment of pateint dumping yet not deal with DPH ... interesting questions ... maybe a city reporter could dig ... NO that would EXPOSE the HYPOCRACY.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

was "avoiding criticism from conservative quarters" he certainly wouldn't have decided to try this guy in civilian courts, he'd have gone the military tribunal route. (I definitely support Obama on this, btw. Ask Tim McVeigh about our regular justice system and its efficiency, especially when compared to the "success ratio" of convictions in military tribunals.)

maybe, just maybe, the government in this instance in good faith believed that the exigent circumstances of this case merited the use of the public safety exception. and they did in fact end up reading him his Miranda rights, so I guess Tim's real question is not if they were read, but when they were read.

and for the record, this guy has the death of the MIT police officer to deal with, in addition to the bombing victims.

Posted by GuestD on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

What I'm more concerned about is 4th amendment rights that were apparently thrown out the window in Boston. Apparently residents were not allowed to refuse unwarranted entry to authorities to search their homes.

Since it turns out that this case was solved not by police cameras, but by crowdsourcing phone pics, was not solved by the police search, but by an average citizen, we'd do well to seek security in ways that don't involved further augmentations to the post-9/11 national security state because they don't work.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

the courts have long held that. It is not, as are all rights, absolute.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

The 4th amendment does not allow for the generalized locking down of entire neighborhoods under ersatz martial law and demanding entry to all of the homes in those neighborhoods without a warrant.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

End of story. When there is a public safety threat there are broad exceptions to all constitutional protections. You can bang on endlessly about how that "concerns" you but that's the way it is.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 8:15 pm

The broad exception is that there has to be a direct connection between who is being sought and the hot pursuit of them. Locking down whole neighborhoods and suspending the 4th amendment in this case was overreach. And it did not work.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 8:55 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

I will immediately clutch your rss aas I can not to find
your e-mail subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any?

Please allow me know in order that I may subscribe.

Posted by empower network on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 9:41 am

You really need to find a more sympathetic example to make your case.

So does Tim.

I really, really do not care if his rights were violated, because some things are more important. As the government and the courts agree.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 9:59 pm

It was of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of innocent civilians whose 4th amendment rights "of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched were violated by an increasingly aggressive police state" which were abrogated.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:31 am

interpretation of the Constitution.

My 1st Amendment right to free speech does not include yelling "nigger" and "faggot" to every black and gay walking by.

My 2nd Amendment right to bear arms does not allow me to carry a loaded automatic weapon into a courtroom or city hall.

And so on through the Bill of Rights. Exceptions exist to all rights based on over-arching public need, and public need doesn't come any bigger than some terrorist on the loose.

The cops are welcome to enter my home any day, 24/7, if they are in hot pursuit of a terrorist.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:43 am

(Unless the federal prosecutors foolishly seek the death penalty, which would turn him into a martyr.)

John Allen Muhammad: Beltway sniper, dead thanks to the state of Virginia. Not a known martyr of note.

Timothy R. McVeigh: mad OKC bomber, dead thanks to the federal Gov. Not many known people to be worked up over that one.

We do have Bernadine Dohrn though

"Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room, far out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson!"

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

Much easier to discuss Miranda rights on this case than his motivation: violent Islamic jihad, which should be discussed in the context of Pamela Geller's ads on Muni buses that got city progs all in a dither. And the Guardian's silence during the Danish cartoon riots. Does multiculturalism require city progs to ignore Islamic violence out of some misguided idea of tolerance?

Posted by Rob Anderson on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 9:40 am

the United States, so what's your point?

Murderous individuals use all kinds of reasoning to justify their actions. For some reason, many people in our society choose only to focus on the religion of murderers when that religion is Islam.

As far as I know, Obama is a Christian, and he's the current American who commits the most mass murder.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 9:53 am

All fundamentalist religions are prone to violence against the heretics, apostates and nonbelievers. I fear whomever has to engage in special practices, clothing or food, to appease their imaginary friend.

Any adherent to any religion that opposes a liberal, diverse culture is the enemy in my book.

That places Barack bin Obama on the same page as Osama hussein Laden, murderous religious and cultural extremists willing to lay waste to as many people who stand in their way as required to prevail.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 10:30 am

religious fundamentalists and terrorists.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

In the world view of the authoritarian oligarch, people demanding equity in exchange for lucrative public entitlements must seem extreme.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

24/7 online telling other people what they should think, say, do and pay for.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

Just trying to get government to regulate land use in a way that does not destroy our community and screw our transit system because of people who just want to get guvmint off of their backs so that they can make a boat load of money and then move on somewhere else. I'm sure that people without a direct financial interest in public policy participating in politics strikes you as extreme too.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

Weather Underground, Badder Mienhoff, The SLA, The Red Brigade...

It's not what people believe, but how they believe.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

There aren't many of those around these days, but yeah, vanguard leftism is a problem, even when "the vanguard" is plowed back into the neoliberal growth machine as it has incorporated the "new left" nonprofiteers into its coalition.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

I do agree with all of the ideas you have offered to your post.

They are really convincing and can certainly work.
Nonetheless, the posts are too short for beginners.
May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time?
Thanks for the post.

Posted by Partner With Anthony on Mar. 24, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

the mad Muslims that the USA was supporting in liberal magazines such as the Nation. Up until 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan a person could freely mention the backwardness of Islamic states and their kooky belief system when amongst the Chomsky left.

Before 9/11 and the invasions it was common to hear mention of the attacks on women and gays in Afghanistan, from liberals, not to mention the bizarre blowing up of those massive statues.

When it was the idiotic Reagan right making common cause with the Mujahideen and various other religious nuts in the area it was fine to attack the krazy Muslims. Once the krazy Muslims start attacking the USA, our liberals desert ship and start making excuses.

Before it was religion and the support of American right wingers making religious Muslims act out, now that they have attacked us they are really a tolerant crowd of misunderstood well meaning miscreants.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 5:00 pm