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What legal rights should Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have?

by AirTalk®

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This combination of photos provided on Friday, April 19, 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, left, and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, right, of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in custody for the Boston Marathon bombings. Uncredited/AP

After a weekend spent hospitalized, sedated, and in serious condition, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awake and answering questions from investigators in writing. During his arrest on Friday, Tsarnaev was not read his Miranda rights – his 5th amendment right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning, and a warning that whatever he says can be used against him in a court of law.

The reading of Miranda rights can be waived in the event that a suspect poses an imminent threat. Precedent for waiving Miranda rights in the past has been immediate danger – in one example, a rape suspect with an empty shoulder holster was asked where his gun was. Another example is “Which wire do I cut to disarm this bomb?” Miranda rights can be waived in order to gain critical intelligence – in cases involving terrorist plots, such as Tsarnaev’s, these distinctions can become more abstract.

What qualifies critical intelligence? Is Tsarnaev an immediate threat? Is waiving Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights setting a potentially dangerous precedent for waiving these rights in the future?

John Eastman, Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University School of Law; he is the Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute

Baher Azmy, legal director at Center for Constitutional Rights

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