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Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
Commentary :: Human Rights
THE NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD, MASSACHUSETTS CHAPTER URGES LAW ENFORCEMENT TO HOLD FAST TO U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS
22 Apr 2013
Boston, April 21, 2013: The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) wishes to express its
sympathy to those who were wounded and to those who lost family members in the April
15 bombings near the close of the Boston Marathon and in the events of the following
days. We join in spirit with our fellow human beings to hope for speedy recovery
and healing.
While we appreciate that public safety rules usually serve a legitimate purpose in
times of crisis in order to protect and maintain an orderly society, our legal
system includes other important protections derived from the U.S. Constitution.
Those protections must be upheld, especially in the aftermath of crisis. Indeed,
those protections are designed for times of crisis. If Constitutional protections
are denied to one of us, they may one day be denied to all of us.

A suspect is in custody, accused of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombings and
subsequent violence. He is likely to be charged with the most serious offenses
carrying the most serious penalties. But this suspect, like all who face prosecution
by the United States, has a right to the well-established constitutional protections
of due process of law. He is entitled to the Miranda warning, namely that he has the
right to remain silent, that anything he says can and may be used against him in a
court of law, and that he has a right to consult with a lawyer and to have a lawyer
present during questioning and that, if he cannot afford a lawyer, one will be
appointed to represent him at no cost to him.

Courts have allowed a limited exception to Miranda where there is an immediate and
continuing threat to public safety. However, there is no publicly-stated basis at
this time to apply the urgent public safety exception to the Miranda warning
because, by the admission of law enforcement before the suspect was apprehended on
April 19, it was safe for residents to leave their homes. The protection guaranteed
under Miranda must not be discarded unless dire circumstances demand it.

Our justice system requires us to hold fast to our values and to the rule of law,
especially when the system is tested by those who commit terrible acts of
aggression. The danger that comes with the deprivation of legal protection to any
criminal suspect is the erosion of this protection for us all. If our government is
allowed to selectively respect constitutional rights based on our resentment of the
accused, the rights themselves become meaningless.

The NLG urges law enforcement, and the U.S. Attorney's office, to hold fast to the
Constitutional freedoms which serve to define us as a civilized nation to the rest
of the world at a time when we are being watched so closely. We urge the swift
appearance of the suspect before a judge, and access to a lawyer as quickly as
possible. It is imperative that we, as a democratic nation, ensure that the world
recognizes us at this time as a nation of civilized people in how we treat those
whom we accuse of committing crimes.

This work is in the public domain