Right decision on trial site

Right decision on trial site

A political motive does not alter the facts — the Boston Marathon bombing was a heinous crime, not an act of war.

A foolish argument has broken out in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the killing of one suspected terrorist and arrest of another.

The Obama administration announced Monday that 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be tried in the civil courts, not before a military tribunal. The decision was immediately denounced by U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who argued that Tsarnaev should be declared an enemy combatant and tried before a military tribunal.

Civilian courts, however, are the only credible option because the alleged crime, as awful as it was, better fits that jurisdiction. Circumstances may change as additional facts are developed. But so far, there is no evidence to suggest that the brothers were working in concert with an al-Qaida-type organization or were engaged in anything other than their own personal religious jihad.

The Boston Marathon bombing is not akin to a typical crime, like say the robbery of a gas station or even the murder of a store clerk. It fits the definition of an act of terror (violence perpetrated against innocents for political reasons), but it also was a criminal act committed in this country by legal residents (one a citizen and the other an aspiring citizen).

While the motive, although not fully determined, was different from that of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (anti-government) or Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph (abortion), the conduct was essentially the same.

The News-Gazette has never subscribed to the theory that individuals like Osama bin Laden or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are entitled to a trial in American courts with all the legal safeguards that entails. They were commanders of a military organization engaged in war on this country and its people.

The Tsarnaev brothers are different. Although it appears their motive was political and religious, their nihilistic action is significantly different from these al-Qaida commanders.

One other point of contention among Obama administration critics is the decision by law enforcement to invoke the public safety exception and not advise Tsarnaev of his constitutional right to remain silent after he was taken into custody and questioned. No less a constitutional authority than Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz has predicted that law officers will regret their decision not to inform Tsarnaev of his right to remain silent.

It may well be correct that Tsarnaev's statements will not be admitted into evidence because of the failure to inform him of his Miranda right to remain silent. If so, it will be a small price to pay, given how important it was to determine the who, how and why behind the bombing.

This is a high-profile case, but not a close one. The evidence (photographs, incriminating statements to a third party, physical evidence) appears overwhelming, so forsaking incriminating statements, if that is what happens, will be a minor issue.

Law enforcement's response to the bombing and its aftermath has been exemplary, a model of professionalism. It's predictable that some are second-guessing decisions that were and are being made, but to our way of thinking they are in concert with the facts and compelling circumstances.

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