Feds cite public safety exception for temporarily revoking Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights

The Justice Department has temporarily revoked the Miranda rights of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old Cambridge man accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013, to allow federal investigators to conduct limited questioning of the suspect without an attorney present.

“There is a public safety exemption in cases of national security and potential charges involving acts of terrorism, and so government has that opportunity right now,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, on Friday night.

The public safety exception can be invoked if the questions are necessary to help police “secure their own safety or the safety of the public”, and the statements can only be admitted as evidence if they are provided voluntarily by the suspect. However, any question that goes beyond the scope of ascertaining whether any imminent threat to public safety exists would not be admissible in court if the suspect is not Mirandized.

At the time of Tsarnev’s arrest, it was not known whether the brothers were acting alone or as part of a terrorist organization or whether more attacks were imminent.

Read more: Arsenal of explosives suggests Tsarnaev brothers may have planned more bombings

White House spokesman Jay Carney pointed out that “it is a fact that the public safety exception to Miranda allows for law enforcement to quickly interrogate a suspected terrorist without giving Miranda warnings under certain circumstances to gain critical intelligence and national security information.”

Ortiz on Monday declined to comment on “any possible communications between the suspect and law enforcement at this time.”

Tsarnaev, who was upgraded to fair condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Tuesday, was Mirandized during his initial court appearance before federal Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler on Monday. A federal public defender has been assigned to represent Tsarnaev.

It’s likely that Tsarnaev’s attorneys will challenge any statements he made to law enforcement officers before he was Mirandized from being entered into evidence.

The Justice Department’s decision drew a rebuke from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“However horrific the crime, continuing to erode constitutional rights in invites continued abuse by law enforcement, and walks us down on a dangerous path that becomes nearly impossible to reverse,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren in a statement. “The Miranda warnings were put in place because police officers were beating and torturing ‘confessions’ out of people who hadn’t even been formally accused of a crime. We cannot afford to repeat our mistakes. If officials require suspects to incriminate themselves, they are making fair trials and due process merely option and not a requirement. To venture down that road again will make law enforcement accountable to no one.”

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2 Comments on “Feds cite public safety exception for temporarily revoking Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be held as an enemy combatant | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Boston Marathon bombings | What The Folly?!

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