Arrest raises new questions on rights of terror suspects

10:57 AM, Apr 20, 2013   |    comments
(Photo: Alex Wong Getty Images)
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USA TODAY - The capture of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing opened new questions Saturday of how far the U.S. Justice Department can go in questioning suspected terrorists, and whether they should be brought to justice in civilian courts at all.

The Justice Department has said it is considering charges against bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was captured Friday night after a short standoff that capped an intense four-day manhunt. But officials also said the agents interrogating him had not given him a standard Miranda warning first, relying on an ill-defined exception that lets them question suspects about threats to public safety.

That approach met with swift criticism Saturday.

"These are dangerous exceptions. If we don't protect the rights of the people who most threaten us, then we won't protect the rights of the rest of us," said Nancy Hollander, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who now represents two detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Others applauded that decision. "A decision to NOT read Miranda rights to the suspect was sound and in our national security interests," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a Tweet on Saturday. Graham had previously suggested that Tsarnaev should be held under the law of war instead of being prosecuted in a civilian court.

Not reading Tsarnaev a Miranda warning increases the risk that anything he says to investigators will be inadmissible if he's charged with a crime.

"They have to consider what do you lose from a possible suppression motion versus what do you gain by learning about a threat to public safety," former Boston U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said. "The government will be sensitive to that. They'll try to maximize the benefit and minimize the risk."

He said prosecutors almost certainly have enough evidence against Tsarnaev that the risk of not having his confession admitted in court is small.

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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