411: Dealing with the Remaining Suspect of the Boston Bombings
As the country reels from the Boston Marathon attacks (Boston Bombings) of Monday, April 15th, all of us at the Law Offices of Aronberg and Aronberg would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the victims of the attacks, their families, loved ones and friends; we would also like to extend our appreciation to all of the first responders who heroically mitigated the impact of the bombings.
It’s hard to get more American than the city of Boston in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boston has always played an especially crucial role in the definition of patriotism in this country, since the very beginning states of the U.S. In the late 1760s, American colonists protested in the streets of Boston against unfair economic burdens imposed by the King of Great Britain. In 1770, British troops fired on a civilian crowd in the city in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Three years later, the infamous Boston Tea Party took place in Boston Harbor in which patriotic colonists boarded the ships of the East India Company in an effort to demonstrate against further economic burdens. Boston has been—throughout the history of this country—such an important city that, once a year, Patriots’ Day is observed to remember the Battles of Lexington and Concord on the third Monday in April 15th. Additionally, the Boston Marathon is always run on Patriots’ Day.
This year, the third Monday in April was April 15th. At roughly 2:50 P.M. on that day, two bombs exploded on Boylston Street, killing three and injuring nearly 200. The three killed included a young boy, a grown woman, and a foreign graduate student. The injured included moms, dads, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, many of who suffered injuries so terrible that their only chances of survival hinged on amputation. Within the days following the horrific blasts, two key suspects were named—brothers of Chechen descent named Tamerlan, 26, and Dzokhar, 19, Tsarnaev. After the massive manhunt ensued, Tamerlan died in a shoot-out with police on the Thursday just after the bombings, and Dzokhar was arrested—after a shootout with police—and taken to a hospital in custody.
So, of the two suspects in the Boston bombings, only one remains alive. Why, then, don’t we just throw him in prison and toss away the keys for the heinous crimes he allegedly committed against the good people of Boston and thus the U.S. in general? We can’t—and shouldn’t—do that because of something even more American than Boston: the Constitution of the United States. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defen[s]e.” That Amendment, coupled with numerous Supreme Court rulings, have ensured that an individual accused and prosecuted for having committed a crime shall have the right to a defense attorney—and, if the criminal can’t afford to hire one on his own, the state will appoint a defense attorney to the defendant, in this case Tsarnaev, at no cost to the defendant.
As far as legal issues pertaining to Tsarnaev are concerned, there has been a lot of talk about the Miranda Rights of the defendant. As you may know, he was not read his Miranda Rights immediately upon arrest, as is required by law, except where authorities may utilize a safety exemption. The Miranda Rights essentially tell the arrested individual that whatever they tell authorities might be used against them in their criminal case and also that they have the right to an attorney. By not reading Tsarnaev his Miranda Rights, the authorities gave Tsarnaev the right to divulge information to the authorities without fear that what he says might be used against him. The authorities in this instance chose to invoke the exemption because they thought there was a chance that he might know of other impending attacks on the U.S. and they didn’t want him to withhold such important information simply out of fear that it might come back to bite him.
Now, Dzokhar Tsarnaev—a recently naturalized American citizen—has been charged at the federal level as a criminal and will be tried, in front of a jury (as is also ensured via the Sixth Amendment), in federal court (as opposed to military court or any international war court). He has been supplied an attorney and can now defend himself, as the legal system of this country allows, against the charges he will face.
Terrorism finds us vulnerable from time to time. Innocent blood is shed despite our best efforts to prevent senseless murder. Just as we try to protect our civilians and our way of life, we must fight to protect the adherence to the documents on which this nation was founded—and that includes extending the rights guaranteed in the Constitution to those determined to retain the rights, no matter how much we may despise them for what they’re accused of doing.