he citywide manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect, is finally over. He is reportedly being held in serious condition at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where, thanks to a possibly self-inflicted gunshot wound to the throat, he is communicating with authorities by writing. Here's what you should know:
Who is investigating him?
A group of investigators called the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, made up of members of the FBI, CIA, State Department, and others, according to USA Today. It's not clear how much information Tsarnaev is willing or even able to share, thanks to his medical state and lack of legal representation. No formal charges have yet been filed against him.
Will he be read his Miranda rights?
Possibly — although authorities aren't saying when that might be. The government is claiming a public-safety exemption, which excuses them from having to read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights "in cases of national security and potential charges involving acts of terrorism," according to Talking Points Memo.
So even though Tsarnaev has not been explicitly notified of his rights to remain silent and secure legal counsel, anything Tsarnaev says to investigators now will probably be admissible in court. The ACLU released an official statement decrying the decision:
Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule. [ACLU]
The New Yorker's Amy Davidson wonders about the vague wording of the public safety exemption, which doesn't give a timetable for how long a suspect can be interrogated before being read his rights. "Does that mean you could lose your Miranda rights for some undefined stretch of time even if the government doesn’t believe you will do something — just that you might know something about what someone else might do? And, perhaps after another round of memos, how long might that period last — forty-eight hours? Forty-eight days? Years?"
How will he be tried?
The issue of Tsarnaev's Miranda rights ties into whether he will be tried in criminal court, or as an enemy combatant by a military commission. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are both pushing for the latter option, releasing a joint statement saying:
We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now.
Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel. Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks. [The Hill]
According to NBCNews.com, the White House would prefer that Tsarnaev be tried in a federal civilian court, especially since he is a naturalized American citizen.
If Tsarnaev is tried a civilian court, it's almost certain that his defense team will say that he can't get a fair trial in Boston. As Max D. Stern, a defense attorney in Boston, tells The Boston Globe: "Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody that was injured or was there or was terrorized by what happened."
Setting aside the competing partisan interests, many experts believe that Tsarnaev will be tried in federal court, which has significantly more resources than the state courts, according to BBC.com. It's possible that state prosecutors could try him separately for the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier.
Will he face the death penalty?
Several top Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have said that federal prosecutors should pursue the death penalty for Tsarnaev. "This is just the kind of case that it should be applied to," Schumer told The Huffington Post. "In fact, the only other time it's been used since '94 is on Timothy McVeigh."
While the death penalty isn't an option in Massachusetts state courts — the Bay State abolished its death penalty statute nearly 30 years ago — it would be in a federal court.
Prosecutors may have the public on their side if they do call for the death penalty. According to Gallup, 63 percent of Americans are generally in favor of the death penalty for people convicted of murder, and only 32 percent are opposed. It's hard to imagine many supporters of capital punishment having a change of heart for a suspect accused of setting off bombs that killed three people and injured at least 170 more.
Update 1:45 p.m. ET: Tsarnaev has been charged as a civilian, and will be tried in federal court.
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