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Letters: An accused bomber's rights

April 25, 2013

Re "Tsarnaev has rights," Opinion, April 23

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, is absolutely right that Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be prosecuted under our criminal justice system, as have hundreds of other terrorists. Tsarnaev is entitled to all the normal constitutional protections, including those in the familiar Miranda warning.

At the same time, Chemerinsky skirts an important point. It has been noted that the Supreme Court's Miranda decision doesn't necessarily require that anyone who is detained be read his rights. Under this circumstance, prosecutors are not able to use any incriminating statement made by the suspect at his trial.

If the decision not to Mirandize Tsarnaev might have allowed public safety officials to uncover information that would protect the public from other plots or threats — especially where there is enough other evidence to convict — then the government's decision was both constitutional and rational, even wise.

Garland Allen

Santa Monica

Chemerinsky argues that the police should not have interrogated the surviving Boston suspect under the "public safety exception." While he correctly notes that there was no longer an immediate danger that would have justified the exception, he further argues that there is no exception for terrorism under the Constitution.

There may be no exception, but Miranda is a matter of constitutional interpretation, and as such the interpretation may be modified as needed.

Indeed, non-strict constructionists — those who argue the Constitution is a living, breathing document — necessarily believe it can be interpreted differently as needs arise.

David H. Goodwin

Los Angeles

I am generally in favor of the Miranda concept; a dumb crook is as much entitled to know how to get around the law as a Wall Street hustler. But Miranda isn't sacred writ. It's the product of a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 1966.

Today, the Miranda warning is a staple of TV cop shows, without much real meaning except to a lawyer trying to get his client out of a jam.

In the case of Tsarnaev, arguing about Miranda is silly. The worst that can happen is that what Tsarnaev said during the questioning can't be used against him. There is more than enough evidence to convict him without any admissions.

My guess is that his public defender will try to cop a guilty plea in exchange for the prosecution's promise not to ask for the death penalty.

Arthur Armstrong

Manhattan Beach


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