“Of course, actors look forward to the day when they can do a big courtroom scene.” Greg Kinnear.
Arguably the most dramatic courtroom scenes since the O.J. Simpson trial are about to start in a little over a week. Three friends of alleged Boston Bomber, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, will enter and find out if they go free or spend as much as the next five years in prison. Actor Greg Kinnear won’t be present, but everyone in Boston, and beyond, will be watching the drama unfold.
The prosecution and the US Government claims the trial keep America safe. On the defense is a scared young man who didn’t do anything other than what 99 percent of college kids would do. A friend texted him, said he was going away for awhile and that he should help himself to whatever he wanted in the room.
The government appears to be trying to justify the billions of dollars spent on police militarization while citizen’s rights are being slowly and methodically eroded. The most powerful country on earth is trying to justify it’s existence on the back of a frightened boy thousands of miles from home.
On June 30, Dias Kadyrbayev, Robel Phillipos and Azamat Tazhayakov, will sit in the austere courtroom. The outcome of their trials — Tazhayakov goes first — won’t turn on the hinge of April 13, 2013 when the bomb exploded. Instead, US Constitutional rights guaranteed in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments will be on trial.
The Government’s Role?
If it weren’t for the tragedies, the government role would be to provide comic relief. Consider this:
- Thousands of law enforcement in, and around, Boston couldn’t find the alleged bomber. He was finally spotted by a tired man going out late for a smoke.
- Millions of dollars spent on hardware and personnel to protect the marathon. Yet, if the government’s own story is true, two bungling college kids dodged all the security to set off two IEDs at the finish line.
- The government rushing to thump their chest with the news media, first bellowing “We captured the suspect” then “Oops, our bad. We didn’t get him.”
Tazhayakov was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, a catch-all phrase of law enforcement when they can’t find anything more substantive to bring to bear. Tazhayakov’s “crime” was to visit Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and remove a laptop and backpack days after the bombing. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev tossed the two items in the garbage when they discovered the Boston police were searching for their friend, Tsarnaev.
The prosecution’s case turns on statements made by Kadybayev and Tazhayakov. The sticking point is a question about the statements — were they voluntary or coerced. Attorneys for the two men dispute the prosecution claim that the statements were voluntary and point out that coercion does not always mean physical force or violence.
What is Coercion?
Chambers v. State of Florida set the standard which recognized that coercion can be mental as well as physical. In issuing its ruling, the state said, “A prolonged interrogation of the accused who is ignorant of his rights and who has been cut off from the moral support of friends and relatives is not infrequently an effective technique…” of coercion. A confession, or statement, given under coercion is self incrimination and a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling in 1966 in the Miranda vs. Arizona case was clear,” said Nick Wooldridge, a prominent New York City criminal defense attorney who works for the law firm Bukh & Associates, PLLC. “Law enforcement officials not only have to inform people they interrogate that they have the right to counsel and the right to not incriminate themselves, but when they interrogate people who don’t have an attorney with them and take a confession, they have what the Court called a “heavy burden” to show that the people who confessed intelligently and knowingly waived their right to counsel.”
Robert Griffin, a Massachusetts public defender, telephoned the State Police barracks on April 19, 2013 while Kadybayev and Tazhayakov were being interrogated by law enforcement agencies from several jurisdictions. The State Trooper, who answered the phone, was told by Griffin that he was with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and he didn’t want the men to answer any questions. Subsequently, the State Trooper told one of the law enforcement officials present about the call, but the interview continued regardless. The two men were never allowed the opportunity for legal counsel during the 8 hours they were questioned.
During the interrogation, the suspects were not under arrest and would not be arrested until May 1. As the suspects are natives of Kazakhstan, they probably did not understand their rights as spelled out in the Constitution. While the law enforcement agents have claimed that the two men were informed of their rights, Bukh says his client should have been allowed to speak with attorneys because of the suspect’s understandable confusion. Additionally, the two men were possibly intimidated by a process they did not understand.
Prosecuting attorneys claim, in documents filed with the court, that the two men cooperated with law enforcement and began talking about their actions on April 18, 2013, prior to officials learning that an attorney wanted to represent them. Failing to make sure the two men understood their rights according to the 1966 Miranda decision, the agents were inadequate in confirming the suspects’ understanding of their rights and merely told them they could remain silent.
Kadyrbayev’s attorney, says the entire issue speaks to the voluntariness of the confession. It is not clear if Kadyrbayev understood the proceedings or whether or not there was an intelligent, voluntary waiver of his rights. Bukh said any conviction at a trial that allows the confession to be introduced will spark a lengthy appeals process.
“My client is completely innocent of the charges,” said Bukh. “He had no intention of helping Tsarnaev dispose of evidence. More importantly, appeals courts will not look kindly upon the behavior of law enforcement officials who should have realized that the Miranda decision required them to give my client, who was not under arrest, every opportunity to speak with an attorney rather than interrogate them as soon as possible.”
In some ways, the trials of the three men accused of aiding the alleged Boston Bomber will just be the opening act. The curtain lifts on Act Two in November. Act Three will be written by the American people as they watch from the cheap seats to learn if justice prevails or if the oligarchy survives.
By Jerry Nelson