National Lawyers Guild Urges Authorities in Boston Bombing Case to Follow Criminal Law

NLG calls for adherence to federal presentment statute and to afford Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Miranda rights.

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) urges federal law enforcement to afford Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the right to be brought before a judge within 48 hours to review probable cause for continued detention, and the right to remain silent and to an attorney as guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona. In response to the attempted bombing in New York City’s Times Square in 2010, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder proclaimed the right to suspend Miranda rights for anyone accused of a terrorism-related charge. Given the vast expansion in terrorism legislation by federal and state authorities—legislation that is often vague and overbroad in scope—the executive branch’s ability to elect when and where to ignore civil liberties is detrimental to democracy. Exploiting public fears to justify the suspension of basic rights subverts the U.S. justice system.

“Shortcuts to due process are becoming all too frequent in high profile cases, especially ones the government deems terrorism-related. Law enforcement officials in this country take an oath to uphold the law, no matter what the particular crime, and they are bound by that oath in the Tsarnaev case,” said NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian.

“The Department of Justice’s unilateral decision to expand the public safety exception to Miranda threatens to undermine fundamental constitutional guarantees and further lead the country down the path of a police state,” NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani added.

Detention and interrogation of individuals exceeding the prescribed statutory limits runs contrary to U.S. constitutional protections. Police interrogation already routinely consists of psychological manipulation of defendants, including threats to harm them, false promises of leniency, protracted periods of questioning, and even acts of brutality—all aimed at causing people in custody to think their only recourse is to provide coerced or false confessions.

The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has members in every state.

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