Boston bomb suspect hospitalized under heavy guard, Miranda rights in question
Updated: April 21, 2013 - 03:18 pm
BOSTON (AP) - As the lone surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing lay hospitalized under heavy guard, the American Civil Liberties Union and a federal public defender raised concerns about investigators' plan to question 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights.
What Tsarnaev will say and when are unclear. He remained in serious condition Sunday and apparently in no shape for interrogation after being pulled bloodied and wounded from a tarp-covered boat in a Watertown backyard. The capture came at the end of a tense Friday that began with his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, dying in a gunbattle with police.
U.S. officials said an elite interrogation team would question the Massachusetts college student without reading him his Miranda rights, something that is allowed on a limited basis when the public may be in immediate danger, such as when bombs are planted and ready to go off.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said the legal exception applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is "not an open-ended exception" to the Miranda rule, which guarantees the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
The federal public defender's office in Massachusetts said it has agreed to represent Tsarnaev once he is charged. Miriam Conrad, public defender for Massachusetts, said he should have a lawyer appointed as soon as possible because there are "serious issues regarding possible interrogation."
There was no immediate word on when Tsarnaev might be charged and what those charges would be. The twin bombings killed three people and wounded more than 180.
The most serious charge available to federal prosecutors would be the use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, which carries a possible death sentence. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.
President Barack Obama said there are many unanswered questions about the bombing, including whether the Tsarnaev brothers - ethnic Chechens from southern Russia who had been in the U.S. for about a decade and lived in the Boston area - had help from others. The president urged people not to rush judgment about their motivations.
Gov. Deval Patrick said Saturday that Tsarnaev was probably unable to communicate. Tsarnaev was at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where 11 victims of the bombing were still being treated.
"I, and I think all of the law enforcement officials, are hoping for a host of reasons the suspect survives," the governor said after a ceremony at Fenway Park to honor the victims and survivors of the attack. "We have a million questions, and those questions need to be answered."
The all-day manhunt Friday brought the Boston area to a near standstill and put people on edge across the metropolitan area.
The break came around nightfall when a homeowner in Watertown saw blood on his boat, pulled back the tarp and saw a bloody Tsarnaev hiding inside, police said. After an exchange of gunfire, he was seized and taken away in an ambulance.
Raucous celebrations erupted in and around Boston, with chants of "USA! USA!" Residents flooded the streets in relief four days after the two pressure-cooker bombs packed with nails and other shrapnel went off.
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