(written some days ago but simmering for editing purposes)
“They aren’t rights if they only apply when we’re safe.” ~Marissa Reichert
I don’t really know her, but this more-than-articulate friend-of-a-son-of-a-cousin said it as right as a person could articulate …in a conversation related to Miranda rights and the young, alive suspect caught in the boat after the Boston marathon bombings.
It got me seriously thinking about what it means to be free and how we balance that with the duty and responsibility to protect ourselves. How far do we go in the hunt to identify and catch people who will hurt us in the future if we don’t stop them, and how do we treat them when we think we have found them?
Well, this morning’s news answered that question a bit. A young suburbian from Chicago, an 18 year old, has apparently been “arraigned on terrorism charges” and I’m wondering what that means….terrorism charges exactly? Must be federal and patriot-related. They have their purpose. Laws, and thus charges, have to be very specific and give us notice as to what we did wrong.
The flavor of news I’m reading and its headline read: “US teenager snared in FBI ‘terror’ sting.” That’s probably because I am not getting the CNN effect but the Al Jazeera effect, which I personally find a little more tolerable (only because I need a refreshing viewpoint), but not always fair.
So I move to CNN just for balance…oh wow, look at that….the story is not even evident on the front page. A search is not revealing any related story anywhere.
I am left to wonder why that is I suppose. After all, we are the people…..
Constitutional Law back in the late 1980’s was a very different beast. While there could be unique situations where bypassing Miranda was warranted (the now-famous “public safety exception”), by no means would it qualify in a situation where there is no imminent threat of loss of life, like when an 18 year old is bleeding out in a boat some 24+ hours after the alleged incident causing a search for him and is unable to speak.
See, we want to preserve the admissibility of their statements in a court of law. We also want our system to preserve its honor and humanity even when our human emotions would lead us to potentially strike out and make a mistake ourselves. If we strike out and screw up, that suspect person might walk away (recall they are “innocent” at this point regardless of CNN and FBI reports) because that smoking-gun kind of evidence will not be allowed into the trial (fruit of the poisonous tree stuff-left for another day).
While the public’s emotions are inflamed by fear and news reports (possibly designed to inflame further under the guise of asking the public for help), all we’ve done is become that which we claim we hate. Did you know a news report out of New York ran shortly after the Boston bombs went off, depicting a young man on the front page….. the wrong young man apparently? Can you even imagine the damage done to that guy because of our attempts at helping the FBI? This is probably why the police try to limit the public’s help in the first place.
If the ONLY time we get to have rights, like Miranda, is during peaceful situations in books and pieces of paper called court rulings, then me thinks Marissa is right…. they aren’t Rights at all.
We were tested in the crucible of life on our theoretical stance …. and we kind of failed a little bit. I wonder if it will help us have some tolerance for others around the world enduring that same crucible.