Boston Strong

I elected to not write on this topic again until I’d had time to let the emotions of the attack, aftermath, manhunt, and capture of the surviving suspect currently in custody.  My reasons were twofold –  to avoid presenting factually incorrect information and to give myself time to think over the implications and outcomes of the event from the initiation of the attack until now.

First, I find it disturbing how readily people were willing to cheer what has the potential to become the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IV, US Constitution

The argument could be made that the officers and other law enforcement personnel requested permission to search, but there is a significant legal problem with the way those searches were conducted.  When a dozen (or more) armed law enforcement officers are standing nearby, including some with their weapons trained on you, when you open the door or look out the window the voluntary nature of consent has been violated.  That is duress in base form as the threat of imminent force is present and being brandished openly.

Duress

Restraint or danger, actually inflicted or impending, which is sufficient in severity or apprehension to deprive a person of free choice, destroy his volition, or obtain consent only in form.

Lectric Law Library

While I am certain that many offered voluntary consent, the mere presence of so many heavily armed and armored personnel of questionable identity (local police, state police, FBI, and National Guard appeared to be wearing similar military clothing and body armor) and with vehicles that have prior-to-now been only used in war zones such as Baghdad or Kandahar is tacit and outright duress under force.  Those voluntary consents were nullified by the show of force outside and are invalid.  I can’t speak as to what happened if searches were denied by invoking the fourth amendment, but in the face of so many rifle barrels, I hesitate to believe more than a handful remembered that they had that right in the first place.

My other observation is that the lockdown (shelter-in-place order) and concurrent door-to-door neighborhood sweep and manhunt failed to locate the suspect.  The suspect was not even within the searched zone so the manhunt had zero probability of success (more on this in a minute).  The suspect was located and captured only after the lockdown was lifted.

Officers may make warrantless searches and seizures if they find that exigent circumstances exist and that they have probable cause. An exigent circumstance exists when an officer has a compelling need to take official action but lacks the time needed to get a warrant. Determining probable cause in this context requires a consideration of the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an officer acted in accord with a high probability that the search would turn up contraband or evidence.

Search & Seizure Law

Did exigent circumstances exist to allow for the search for the suspect? Absolutely.  Was there a high probability that the suspect would be found in the area where the manhunt and door-to-door searches was conducted?  It is true after-the-fact that the answer is no.

Have we ever had bombings in this country?  Yes. The first such terrorist-style attack occurred in 1886.  Since then, there have been dozens of bombings in the United States, and while the attack on Boston was terrible for those injured and the families who lost loved ones, the attack itself and the threat to public safety posed by the suspect(s) after their identities were known paled in comparison to Timothy McVeigh (who killed 169 and injured 675 in 1995), the culprits of the Wall Street bombing in 1920 (30 killed, 300 injured), or even of the infamous Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski (3 killed, 23 wounded over 17 years of bombings).  Moreover, those prior attacks never merited the willful (even if temporary) surrender of citizens’ rights that occurred recently in Boston.  The manhunt scale and scope was unprecedented.  The shelter-in-place order was unprecedented as they have historically been used for wide-scale chemical spills and similar disasters, not fugitive searches.

I don’t want to stomp on anyone’s toes with this, I’m just trying to point out that all of the good intentions in the world don’t matter when you start shredding citizens’ rights.  What worries me even more is when those same citizens cheer it on, either ignoring or failing to understand when a watershed moment has occurred.

For more on this topic, I suggest John Whitehead’s commentary.

The Race

In the aftermath of yesterday, my daily life has not changed one iota.  My heart aches for the families rent apart yesterday and the people immeasurably maimed.  Right now, there is little that I or anyone else can say that will help heal the wound or patch the broken heart.  The medical care that they are receiving is about as far as humankind can provide.  The heart can only be healed by God.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Yesterday produced moments of terror for people trapped between the blasts triggered by men bent on nothing but bloodshed and destruction of innocent life.  The murderers will meet justice eventually, but even then, humankind is only capable of a certain level of justice.

In our society, a capital crime such as a murder can only be punished once.  After the first murder, all subsequent crimes become essentially free to the murderer.  Their life is already forfeit.  While it is our right to apply the laws of our society and to prosecute the murderers and punish them in accordance with those laws, that punishment always falls short of the anguish of the imposed pain felt by the victims and the families of the victims of these tragedies.

This is the essential understanding that someone has to come to in order to truly understand God’s infinite grace and mercy.  All men fall short of the Law.  By failing to keep God’s law, we violate all of it.  Righteousness in God’s eyes is all-or-nothing. It is black and white.  There can be no gray or the very righteousness of God would be called into question.

So bringing this back to the loss of life yesterday, while I mourn for those killed and pray for those injured, the pain inflicted will far outweigh any pain that humankind can inflect in retribution.  That is the terrible fact of acts of terror – the terrorist will inevitably cause more pain than they endure in the end on this Earth.

My great fear is that this IED-style attack is just the beginning.  The attack was simple to plan and execute and few levels of interdiction would successfully stop such an attack within a free republic such as ours.  Perhaps though, this attack will prepare the people of this nation for the trials to come.

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

So what can be done in the face of terror knowing full well that our legal system, our military, our laws can only take from someone their life and that is the ultimate punishment that we can mete out?

Rise.

Stand up.

Be strong and courageous.

Yesterday, there were instances of God’s grace and mercy at work right in the aftermath before the smoke even cleared.  Men and women, immediately took up that great charge of the unorganized militia and sprung into action tending to the wounded, tourniquetting severed limbs, staunching bleeding, carrying people to hospitals, and intentionally putting themselves in harms’ way.  Those men and women were not just police and paramedics, but spectators – mothers, fathers, children, parents and the runners themselves (many of which heroically ran toward the blast site despite their exhaustion at the end of the grueling marathon course).

Yesterday there was death and despair.  Today there is hope.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

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