Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, was taken into custody last night. Since then I’ve heard many discussions, and read many opinions, over the fact that he wasn’t read his Miranda rights when he was taken into custody. The initial justification given was a Supreme Court decision that the reading of a suspect’s Miranda rights could be suspended when the suspect is seen to present an imminent threat.
Some people think this is perfectly fine while others are worried that Tsarnaev’s civil liberties may be suppressed. As for me, I think we need to take a moment to set this whole minor debate against the backdrop of history. How many societies in history have ever been sufficiently humane that this would even be an issue? One shudders to think of Tsarnaev’s fate had his (alleged) crimes been committed in virtually any other society in history. Would he have been drawn and quartered Friday night or hung from a tree in front of a jubilant crowd Saturday morning? Whatever his fate, people wouldn’t be having a philosophical discussion about the balancing of individual Miranda rights over-against the safety of society while the suspect was recovering in hospital!
And that, it seems to me, is one more reminder why advanced nations like the United States, though inevitably imperfect, are nonetheless dazzling bastions of freedom and humanity that we must be ever vigilant to protect against those who would seek to destroy them.