Hailing Carmen Ortiz While Ignoring Several Amendments

Main Justice has a bizarre post suggesting that those who excoriated Carmen Ortiz for her treatment of Aaron Swartz (and Tarek Mehanna and Russ Caswell, though MJ doesn’t name them by name) are now hailing her aggressiveness.

“The criticism lately has been that they’ve overcharged some people and been overly harsh,” Peter Elkann, a Boston defense attorney, said in a recent interview with Reuters. Elkann went on to observe that “no one is going to accuse any prosecutor of making too big a deal out of this case.”

That would be a safe statement, considering that the April 15 bombing killed 3 people and wounded more than 280 others, many of whom lost legs, as it left blood on the street and horrified and infuriated millions of Americans.

Ahem.

Maybe Main Justice doesn’t read this blog, which has twice noted the needless prosecutorial irregularity of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s interrogation.

But I would hope that a site covering legal inside baseball has heard of a guy named Erwin Chemerinsky, who seems just as troubled by DOJ’s refusal to comply with Dzhokhar’s reported request for a lawyer as bmaz and I?

It has become increasingly evident that the Justice Department violated the constitutional rights of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He apparently was questioned for hours without being given hisMiranda warnings, and the interrogation continued even after he explicitly requested an attorney. It is disturbing that the Justice Department would risk its criminal prosecution by ignoring such basic rules and even more disturbing for what this says as to its view of the Constitution.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Carmen Ortiz made the decision to refuse Dzhokhar a lawyer through 16 hours of interrogation alone. I’m quite certain she did that because that’s the policy — generally and specifically — Obama’s DOJ wants to pursue.

But that’s true of her over-aggressive pursuit of the war on drugs, the war on hackers, and the war on Muslims, too, the wars she was fighting when she took down Aaron Swartz and Tarek Mehanna (and tried to take down Russ Caswell). The other abusive decisions she made all reflect the policy choices of the Obama Administration.

But denying someone his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights is completely consistent with what we’ve seen Carmen Ortiz do in the past. And while Main Justice appears unphased by it, some of the same people who have noted her prosecutorial aggression in the past are noting it continues here.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

8 replies
  1. Ann MacGibbon says:

    The suicide hasn’t “faded from” my “consciousness.” I was horrified and ashamed when I learned that Tsarnaev had requested a lawyer multiple times and been ignored. I do think that Ortiz has destroyed her reputation here in MA. I don’t think she’ll ever be governor or senator. At least I hope not!

    Thanks for all you and bmaz do.

  2. qweryous says:

    Off topic. Know you post on this general topic on occasion. Sure you haven’t seen this.

    Remember this from 2006?

    On May 3, data of all American veterans who were discharged since 1975 including names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and in many cases phone numbers and addresses, were stolen from a VA employee’s home. Theft of the laptop and computer storage device included data of 26.5 million veterans.

    Information on the methods used to recover the devices and data has now been revealed. Do not overlook the comments.

  3. lefty665 says:

    Many places (not here) seem to have conflated “rights” and “warnings”, as in “Miranda rights”. It is as if the Bill of Rights is magically suspended with the invocation of the “Miranda exception”.

    It makes me wonder if the administration has fostered that perception as spin and cover for their interrogation abuses of a demonized suspect.

  4. reliable says:

    The DOJ seems to like to reserve the right to scuttle sensitive cases. Seeing as there’s no punishment for prosecutorial abuse of power or for even the most blatant ethical or legal lapses, why not?

    The Tsarnaev case promises to be a Woodstock of intra- and interagency warfare, riddled with protected informants, embarrassing ‘coincidences’ and, perhaps, an honest whistle-blower or two who will then become the focus of the DOJ’s wrath. With Tamerlan dead and the public convinced, why would the Obama DOJ get mired in something that threatens to expose what they’ve worked so hard to keep secret?

  5. shoirca says:

    Ortiz Under Fire: Critics Say Swartz Tragedy Is Evidence Of Troublesome Pattern

    Ortiz’s performance and fitness for the job are being questioned by a growing list of critics, which now includes congressmen, judges, lawyers and former federal prosecutors.

    Over the past few years, judges have come down on Ortiz’s prosecutors repeatedly, either by granting Rule 29 motions for acquittals or issuing opinions that are highly critical of the conduct of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    http://www.wbur.org/2013/02/20/carmen-ortiz-investigation

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