The Corner

Judge Mirandized Bomber Before FBI Had Finished Interrogation

The Wall Street Journal reports that federal investigators trying to question the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing were unhappy with the decision to read the suspect his Miranda rights after just 16 hours of communicating with him. The Justice Department had delayed doing so under a “public safety” exemption, and apparently didn’t feel that this had yet expired when the judge read him his rights, after which he stopped communicating with law-enforcement officials. The Journal:

A federal judge made the call to advise the Boston bombing suspect of his Miranda rights, even though investigators apparently still wanted to question him further under a public-safety exception.

The judge’s action, which was made Monday, prompted lawmakers to press the Justice Department as to why it didn’t make a stronger bid to resist the judge’s plans.

A Justice Department official said no one at the department asked Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler to come to the hospital, where 19-year-old Mr. Tsarnaev was recovering, and that she made the determination on her own, following standard court-room practice.

Federal rules of criminal procedure require that defendants appear before a judge without unnecessary delay—usually defined as within one business day.

Judge Bowler convened a brief, makeshift court hearing in the hospital room about 16 hours after a sealed criminal complaint was filed in her court against Mr. Tsarnaev. Her reading of the Miranda warning came as part of the formal presentation of charges to the suspect, an act that would have in normal circumstances taken place in a courtroom. . . .

The public-safety exception allows investigators to question suspects for an unspecified period of time without giving them a Miranda warning, the formal language advising suspects of their right to remain silent, among other things. The exception is designed to give law-enforcement officials time to determine if there are other threats to public safety.

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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