So they finally read Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights. Good thing we have that public safety exception to the Constitution. Who can be bothered to hold fast to our most sacred rights and liberties when there might be something bad happening! Obviously, once he was read his rights Tsarnaev immediately stopped talking and the government was unable to protect us from… oh wait, that didn’t happen. Tsarnaev kept talking (or nodding, as it were), even after informed of the basic rights guaranteed to him as a U.S. citizen.

But he did communicate that he couldn’t afford a lawyer. Luckily for him, the magistrate judge who read him his rights at his hospital bedside came with federal public defender in tow.

Let’s meet the people who will do this distasteful work so the rest of us can crucify the guy while being confident he’ll get a fair trial…

I love the federal public defenders and you should too. Their work is the last bulwark preserving the thin line between “fair trial” and “show trial.” They defend those who are presumed to be guilty, and those who are guilty. They defend the undeserving. It’s dirty work, and they are not compensated nearly well enough for it.

But, like a sewer systems operator, if they don’t do their job then the whole system gets backed up with our own waste. No matter how pure or righteous our prosecutorial intentions might be, prosecution creates the nasty, smelly byproduct of zealotry. Federal public defenders stand against that. They protect all of our rights by defending their clients.

Damned if I’d want to do it. I’m happy to have bourgeois conversations about the importance of presumption of innocence, but if you actually put me in a room with somebody like Tsarnaev I’d be like, “Eww, gross, can we put him in the Hannibal Lecter mask or something?”

The WSJ Law Blog has a nice profile of the people who will actually be in the room, defending Tsarnaev and ensuring justice for all:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is getting legal counsel from an office led by one of the nation’s most respected public defenders, Miriam Conrad.

Ms. Conrad’s team includes William W. Fick, who was present when U.S. prosecutors charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with carrying out one of the Boston Marathon bombings during what’s known as a first-appearance hearing.

Miriam Conrad graduated from Harvard Law. William Fick graduated from Yale Law. I love a country where public enemy number one gets an Ivy-covered defense before he’s thrown in jail for the rest of his life.

Or killed. We’ll see if the public defenders can stave off the state-sponsored revenge killing that is the federal death penalty. Because if being flashbanged while bleeding out of your throat while hiding in a land boat in Watertown isn’t enough of a “deterrent,” I don’t think you can credibly argue that being put to death in ten years will make other would-be terrorists say, “Man, I was going to blow up the town square, but now that they’re lethally injecting people, I should re-examine my life.”

Conrad’s office has been in the spotlight before:

A Massachusetts native and Harvard Law School graduate, Ms. Conrad has spent more than two decades as a federal public defender, representing convicted terrorists like the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and other notorious defendants…

For Ms. Conrad, it’s not her first rodeo. She recently represented Rezwan Ferdaus, a Muslim-American who was sentenced to 17 years in November for plotting to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol using remote-controlled model planes armed with explosives. Ms. Conrad tried to raise questions about the mental state of Mr. Ferdaus, suggesting the alleged plot was merely a fantasy driven by mental illness.

Conrad and Fick were actually in the room while Tsarnaev was Mirandized. It’s dirty work; thank God there are people willing to do it.

Boston Bombing: Spotlight On Federal Public Defenders [WSJ Law Blog]


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