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The U.S. judicial system should remain intact as the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev moves forward.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
It should give all Americans satisfaction to know that the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing was identified, tracked down and captured Friday thanks to law enforcement efforts led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but with ample help from Boston's own police force.
The next step must be for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be tried before a jury in federal court.
President Obama on Monday rightly resisted rash calls for Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant or even hauled off to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp.
Due process is not an inconsequential element of the U.S. judicial system. It lies at the core of our society's values, values generating such antipathy that evildoers last week murdered innocent women and a young child and injured many more in soulless violence. We must respond by reaffirming our core beliefs, not disposing of them in a boiling rage.
In the crush of Sunday talk show photo-ops, several U.S. senators sought to dictate how the terrorism case would proceed even though their leader, Lindsey Graham, acknowledged that Tsarnaev is a naturalized American citizen and thus cannot be tried by a military commission based on a law the South Carolina Republican helped to write.
Now that there is no question Tsarnaev is headed for a civilian courtroom, authorities must be careful not to weaken federal prosecutors' hand by raising unwanted and unnecessary legal questions. The Chechen native is being questioned through a public safety exception to Miranda requirements that he be informed of his right to be silent and have a lawyer. The exemption is necessary in cases where an immediate menace remains, but the legal justification becomes blurry unless evidence emerges quickly that Tsarnaev is part of al-Qaida or another organized extremist group still at large.
Justice cannot be so blind that new victims are tolerated, but it must be pursued with the measured care that has propelled this case forward thus far.