In the first Boston Massacre, on March 5, 1770, British troops fired into a rioting crowd of civilians on King Street in Boston, without being ordered to do so; four people died immediately, one soon after, and six were injured. The British governor asked John Adams, who was known for his views on independence from England but who was also an excellent lawyer, to defend the British soldiers in their trial, who had fired without orders from an officer.
The trial took place in open court, with the public admitted to view the proceedings. As a result of Adams' arguments in their defense, six of the eight were acquitted of murder charges and two were convicted of manslaughter for firing directly into the crowd -- this, in spite of the tremendous amount of propaganda that was circulated in the press and in rumors beforehand.
So. We now have a second Boston Massacre, the death of ordinary people at a public event, without the excuse of military presence or riot. One of those accused of responsibility for the bombings has died; the other, 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, has been captured and is hospitalized; he has not been read his Miranda rights. Here is the text of a free Miranda Rights card that can be printed to carry with you:
I wish to invoke my Miranda Rights to remain silent under the statutes and constitution of the United States of America. I do not want to talk or answer any questions to law enforcement. I do not want to participate in any lineup or show-up until I consult with an attorney and he is present. I do not consent to any search of my person, property or possession under my control or which I have an interest. I declare that I do not waive my legal rights and I insist on having my lawyer present.
Police are required to read Miranda rights to people who are arrested as a result of the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, decided in 1966.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not given his Miranda warning because of a 'public safety exception', which is supposed to expire after 48 hours. This exception comes from the Supreme Court case New York v. Quarles; in order for information learned under this exemption to be admissible in court, the suspect must not be "actually compelled by police conduct which overcame his will to resist" and it must be a situation "in which police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety," according to Carl A. Benoit's article, "The 'Public Safety' Exception to Miranda," in a FBI law enforcement bulletin dated February 2011.
However, the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not given this right leads to the suspicion that his case might never see an open court -- might, instead, be judged under 'anti-terrorist' provisions, because of his not being a US citizen. His older brother Tamerlan is dead, so nobody can ever know what Tamerlan intended when he dropped a backpack containing a homemade shrapnel bomb on the sidewalk during the race. The fact that Tamerlan did this appears beyond dispute, as one of the victims of the blast looked him full in the face just before he did it and was able to identify him for police later. But Tamerlan is not Dzhokhar, who is now in custody. Photographs put Dzhokhar at the scene, carrying a shoulder bag -- but I am unaware of any witnesses who can testify that he personally dropped that bag near them.
I can't help being reminded of the Beltway Snipers in 2002, when the adult John Allan Muhammad convinced teenaged Lee Boyd Malvo that it was all right to use ordinary human beings going about their daily lives as targets. I can't help wondering what sort of influence Tamerlan had over Dzhokhar, and why, and whether we will be allowed to learn any of it in an open courtroom.
Will Dzhokhar have a defender as able as John Adams to represent him in an open court? Muhammad and Malvo faced open courtrooms; so did the Unabomber, and Timothy McVie, after the Oklahoma bombing. Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?