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Editorial: Civilian court is the right place to try bombing suspect

Among the many, many breathtaking parts of the Boston Marathon bombing saga last week was the speedy, decisive and ultimately heroic work of law enforcement officials. These were not soldiers or military officials – they were cops and detectives and officers of the FBI, dealing with nearly unprecedented chaos and ultimately restoring calm to a region gripped by panic.

These were civilian officers doing civilian work and doing it well. Which is why the call from several Republican lawmakers, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, to declare Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving bombing suspect, an enemy combatant was so disheartening and ultimately insulting. Is there, after all, any evidence that the civilian criminal justice system can’t handle this case? In fact, there are centuries of precedent to the contrary.

Ayotte, along with Rep. Peter King and Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, put out a joint statement over the weekend, demanding that Tsarnaev be held by the military without access to a lawyer or other basic rights of a democracy.

“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans. The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent,” they said.

Their thinking is flawed in several ways:

∎ Tsarnaev is an American citizen, which means he cannot be tried by a military commission, a legal system reserved for aliens.

∎ While he and his brother are Muslims, there is no evidence – so far at least – that he was working with al-Qaida or any other organized group. And while the U.S. government remains in armed conflict with al-Qaida, the country is not at war with all Muslim extremists. In other words, this isn’t war; the rules of war don’t apply. The law does not appear to allow the military to hold him.

∎ Over the weekend, civilian investigators began questioning Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights and without a lawyer, using a narrow public safety exception that permits such activity to protect the police or public from immediate danger.

∎ Ayotte and the others seem to believe that the only way to acquire information from Tsarnaev is if he is denied his constitutional rights as an American citizen. And yet, look at the ocean of information already available to prosecutors in this case that ties Tsarnaev and his brother to the carnage.

President Obama has said he believes terrorism suspects arrested in the United States should be handled by the criminal justice system, and yesterday his Justice Department charged Tsarnaev with one count of “using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction” against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of “malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.” If he is convicted, the charges could carry the death penalty.

The suspect was arraigned in his hospital bed, and a magistrate judge advised him of his rights and the charges against him.

Obama is right. Based on what we now know, civilian prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges are capable of trying this case. And, if Tsarnaev is found guilty, the civilian criminal code is certainly capable of imposing harsh punishment.

An important message to the world – including to would-be terrorists – is that America’s democratic institutions work and work well, even in times of extraordinary strain. They are stronger than terrorism. Let the system do its job.

Legacy Comments10

does anybody trust that a liberal court would convict him with the overwhelming evidence.....instead they would indite the American way of life before liberalism took over

If we deny people their constitutional rights based on the nature of the crimes committed, the terrorists win. They induce us to abandon the moral high ground, the principles embedded in our nation that makes it so attractive to the rest of the world. There is no lack of information coming from terror suspects that have been afforded their rights. The history of terrorism investigations indicates that most of them keep talking and cooperating, for various reasons personal to them and their cases. The track record of military tribunals trying terrorism suspects is abysmal, whereas that of the civilian courts is damn near perfect. Ayotte and company are mere noisemakers, panderers and butt-coverers, as opposed to thoughtful problem-solvers. She really does need to seek employment elsewhere,

Veritas you are evading the issue I presented in my post. I stated it was not about what court this bomber was tried in. As I said, a first year law student could get him convicted with all the evidence. The issue here is information. The idea that his rights would be violated if he was interrogated without a lawyer is insane. We are talking terroism here. His head lawyer has already stated that even though his crime was horrible, she sees him as someone who is possibly not at fault because of his family life, older brother's influence. The typical PC defense to get someone a lesser sentence because he is a victim. Political Correctness is becoming our own suicide belt.

Veritas, This morning a liberal judge and lawyer stop the flow of useful information coming from the bomber (without coercion). Information that might have prevented more death and injury. do you really think your world is safer now?

Two questions: Is the Constitution something we obey only when it is convenient? And how do you know the judge's politics?

Pub, Look at the situation. Care to bet a year's income on the judge's political orientation?

Why would this adminstration shut down info from this bomber? They were on welfare, yet lived a pretty nice lifestyle. Where did the funding come from? Why does Napolitiano keep changing her story about the older bomber? Russia warned once then we find out they warned twice. Where is the Arab student? Had a student visa for college in Ohio, yet had an apt in Boston. He all of a sudden is where now? Our president cannot manage to say the word terrorists. We should all be worried about security. This adminstration is incompetent. Libya proved that, and now are we facing student terrorists or refugees here plotting against us?

before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared that she, President Barack Obama and other political officials at the top of this administration have the authority to decide which laws to enforce, and which ones to ignore.....i kid you not....and democrats are not ashamed of this bunch

Nobody has an issue with this monster being tried in civilian court. Like Graham said, a first year legal student could try him and win in civil court. The issue is information. Giving him a lawyer now will prevent us from getting that info. The lawyer will advise him not to answer questions. Any links he or his brother might have had to groups, any other connections in the US with other possible cel groups will not be obtained. This does not allow interogation to find out what this kid knows and who he is connected to. That is the issue, INFORMATION, to stop another incident like this. Obviously the left is all about waterboarding. My guess is his lawyer will put up a defense that states he was brainwashed, an innocent victim of his older brother. The writing is on the wall. .

100% CORRECT...what is hard to believe is that the left cant grasp this

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