Questions Linger after Marathon Bombers Arrest

The capture of the second suspect in the Marathon Bombers case raises the question if the individual can be interrogated prior to advising him of his Miranda rights or offering council.   The police have a narrow public safety exemption in which they can question a subject if there is a pressing public safety issue, to protect police or the public from harm.

In the 1984 New York v. Benjamin Quarles case, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that a suspect can be questioned before Miranda rights are read if there is a pressing public safety issue.

“We hold that on these facts there is a ‘public safety’ exception to the requirement that Miranda warnings be given before a suspect’s answers may be admitted into evidence, and that the availability of that exception does not depend upon the motivation of the individual officers involved,” the ruling stated.  The question at hand is this individual part of a terrorist attack or is one of only two involved in the attack?  According to a October 2010 memo issued by the Department of Justice and the FBI that ruling was expanded in response to the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Centers.  That memo states; “Agents should ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public or the arresting agents,” stated the memo. “There may be exceptional cases in which, although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government’s interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation”.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant.

“If captured, I hope the Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes,” Graham tweeted.  This question needs to be addressed before the interrogation begins as some of the information received from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could be thrown out of court as evidence not obtained under due process.  On the other hand if Tsarnaev is declared a terrorist he could be tried in a military court that isn’t held to the same standards as a civilian court.

Does this attack present cause to wave the suspect’s constitutional rights, or should he be classified as an “enemy combatant”?