Suspect not being read Miranda rights sparks debate

Boston Marathon bombings suspect to be tried in civilian court

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The legal issues surrounding the emotionally charged Boston bombings case are sparking a lot of debate.

One of the most controversial issues deals with the suspect's rights. Despite being in custody, Dzhokar Tsarnaev has not been read his Miranda rights.

Since the Boston Marathon bombings and the dramatic manhunt that followed, Americans have bonded over their desire for swift justice.

When the 19-year-old Tsarnaev was finally captured, authorities acknowledged that they did not read him his Miranda rights.

"I wasn't surprised," Jacksonville attorney Eric Roper said.

Roper is a defense attorney in private practice and also a member of the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, or JAG. He says the only way to get around reading Miranda rights to a suspect is to determine the suspect is an imminent risk to the public. Otherwise, Mirandizing is mandatory.

That law applies to everybody. If you are in custody, you do have the right to remain silent, whether you're read the Miranda rights or not. The problem, Roper says, is that's often a trigger for a suspect to clam up.

"If they do invoke either their right to remain silent or to have a lawyer present, then most likely the intelligence gathering function is over," Roper said.

There is great political pressure in this case to get as much information from the suspect as quickly as possible.

"They cannot let that political pressure influence their actions," Roper said. "Otherwise there is a real risk that the prosecution would be put in jeopardy."

The American Civil Liberties Union is even weighing in about the decision not to Mirandize the suspect, stating, "Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly."

The statement goes on to say, "We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions."

There was some pressure Monday to declare the suspect an enemy combatant, which would also affect his rights and cause him to be tried in military court.

He will be tried as a civilian instead.