NYC Subway Bomb Plotter Loses Appeal
MANHATTAN (CN) - A New York City subway bomb plotter who repeatedly signed Miranda warnings after his arrest cannot shake his life sentence by claiming that his confessions should have been suppressed at trial, the 2nd Circuit ruled Tuesday.
Adis Medunjanin and his accomplices Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay came within days of executing their plot to conduct coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system in September 2009, prosecutors say.
Senior leaders of al-Qaida had trained the men to conduct terrorist attacks a year earlier in Pakistan, teaching them to use AK-47s, PK machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Zazi reportedly abandoned the plan after figuring out that he was being surveilled at a George Washington Bridge checkpoint, and he was arrested days after he fled to his Colorado home.
Law-enforcement officials caught up with Zazi's two accomplices months later. During the investigation, however, Medunjanin's lawyer told the FBI and the federal prosecutor assigned to the case not to interview his client without him present.
It was after authorities searched his home in January 2010 that Medunjanin tried to kill himself and others in a high-speed car crash on the Whitestone Expressway.
"Moments before impact, Medunjanin called 9-1-1, identified himself, and left his message of martyrdom, shouting the al-Qaeda slogan: 'We love death more than you love your life,'" prosecutors said in a statement.
Medunjanin was treated at Queens Hospital after the crash and nevertheless spoke with federal agents. The statements he gave helped convict him on May 1, 2012, of several terror charges. Another six co-conspirators, including Zazi and Ahmedzay, have also been convicted in connection with the bombing plot and related charges.
A three-judge panel affirmed Tuesday, unanimously rejecting the argument that his post-arrest statements had been coerced on Tuesday.
"After Medunjanin was arrested, he was given Miranda warnings three times; and on each occasion he signed a form stating that he waived his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present," Judge Amalya Kearse wrote for the court. "Medunjanin does not contend that the Miranda warnings were in any way deficient, that he did not understand his rights and the significance of waiving them, or that he did not sign the waivers."
The appeals court also rejected the assertion that a New York City Police detective encouraged Medunjanin to waive his right to counsel.
According to the 25-page opinion, the detective only said: "Medunjanin's parents must be going through a difficult time with the uncertainty resulting from the investigation of their son, and that if Mr. Medunjanin wanted to help his parents, he should accept responsibility for what he had done and tell the truth."
Gottlieb & Gordon attorney Robert Gottlieb represented Medunjanin and said he will take the case to Washington.
"The government's gross misconduct in intentionally hiding Mr. Medunjanin to prevent him from speaking with his lawyer and ignoring his lawyer's demand not to interrogate him cries out for Supreme Court review," Gottlieb said in an email. "The constitutional right to an attorney applies to everyone, no matter who he is or what the charges might be."
Finding no issue with the pre-arrest demand by Medunjanin's counsel not to interrogate his client without him present, the 2nd Circuit said that attorneys cannot invoke the right to counsel for their clients.
"We reject Medunjanin's contention that the requests by Gottlieb that Medunjanin not be questioned without Gottlieb present, in calls to Agent Azad and AUSA Knox in September 2009, constituted effective invocations of Medunjanin's right to counsel," Kearse wrote. "That right was personal to Medunjanin. Only he could waive it; only he could properly invoke it."