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Disclaimer: This piece was written by Caroline Kelly, A&S '14. The piece only reflects the opinion of the writer. Gavel Media neither supports nor opposes the sentiments expressed in this article.
First, let me express my deepest sorrow regarding Monday’s events. Like my fellow BC students, I see Marathon Monday as the happiest day of the year in Boston when the entire community comes together to cheer on the hard working runners. Anyone who has never experienced Marathon Monday in Boston cannot fully grasp just how horrific the bombing was because they would not understand the spirit of Boston on that day. The fact that people would commit such a senseless and heinous act on a joyous day is unfathomable. My heart goes out to the victims and their families and everyone affected by this tragedy and I could not be happier that the surviving suspect is in police custody.
With that said, I could not help but be concerned by the news that the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, would not be read his Miranda rights. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have suggested trying him as an enemy combatant, meaning he would not have a right to legal counsel during questioning. I have seen many posts on social media from fellow students with statements such as, “I hope they torture him,” or “Send him to Guantanamo Bay.”
These reactions should be worrying for all of us. I know many of you will wonder how I could be concerned about his civil liberties after the horror he inflicted. I will agree with you that he does not deserve these rights, but he is entitled to them. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a terrorist, but he is also an American citizen. The first reason that it is important to respect his rights is that if we do not, it sets a legal precedent. Perhaps in this moment, in the wake of the tragedy, some are prepared to say, “Take away his rights. This is a special circumstance.”
However, if we set a precedent of allowing the government to do away with the rights of its citizens because of a “special circumstance,” how do we define that special circumstance for future cases? Once we cross the line of violating the basic rights of citizens it becomes difficult to draw that line once again. Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be times when American citizens committed grave crimes and they set up a way to deal with it – the judicial branch of the government.
This brings me to my second point. I have faith in the American justice system and I think that it is the best in the world. It is a beautifully structured system that provides certain rights for all citizens: the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, to be confronted with witnesses against him and to have compulsory process for witnesses in his favor, to have the assistance of counsel and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
These rights are outlined in the Bill of Rights and they are part of what makes this country great. If we compromise this document, which outlines the founding principles of our country, as cliché as it sounds, that is when the terrorists have won. This is our opportunity to show the world that even in the face of pure evil the United States is a country based on justice and the rule of law and that we will respond to terrorism with even-handed justice, not with mob-rule or petty revenge.
If we resort to extrajudicial measures to punish this suspect we are doing a disservice to our country. There is not a doubt in my mind that through a fair trial the suspect will feel the full weight of the law and justice will be done. I have seen the best in America this week – courage, selflessness and tenacity. Heroes were born this week. Let us continue that legacy and show the world what America is – a country that will never compromise its principles for terrorists.
Screenshots by Emily Akin/Gavel Media