Monday, April 22, 2013

The public safety in Boston.

NBC reports that suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has started answering questions posed to him by authorities.  The article says that a "a special high value detainee interrogation team will question" Mr. Tsarnaev without advising him of his Miranda rights.  It is unclear whether this team is already at the hospital or Mr. Tsarnaev is answering questions posed by different authorities.  It may be unintentional but the report makes one wonder what is the difference between answering questions and being interrogated.

In any event, Mr. Tsarnaev will not be told of his Miranda rights because there is a public safety exemption which allows individuals to be questioned by the police after they are in police custodywithout being informed of their right to an attorney.  Emily Bazelon at Slate is concerned about how the exemption has been expanded under President Obama's administration.

What do you think Mr. Torvik?  It's been a week since Mr. Tsarnaev allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon.  As far as I know, no other bombs have exploded since and authorities believe that the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone.  Is the public still in danger?  Or should Mr. Tsarnaev be told he has the right to remain silent?


  1. Isn't there always another exception: the police can question someone without advising them of their Miranda rights so long as they use nothing they get against the person being so questioned?

    sean s.

  2. Sean,
    It is true that the authorities could decide to not Mirandize someone and not use the statements then obtained. I assume that they are invoking the public saftey exception because they want to use the statements they obtain.

  3. I think the public safety exception would arguably apply because we don't know if they acted alone. But it would be pretty narrow.

    I also suspect, as Sean implies, that they are more concerned with acquiring "intelligence" about possible other terrorist plots than they are are about acquiring "evidence" for use at trial. We've all seen the video evidence. He did it. And there's no question he got into a firefight with the police, assassinated the MIT cop, etc. They don't need a confession to convict this guy, so Miranda is kind of a side issue in my opinion.

    But I also think you're right that to the extent he does say anything damaging before he's given the Miranda warning that the government will seek to introduce the statements under the public safety exception.


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