Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Garrity Rights

I'm not an expert on Garrity rights but I've seen my share of its use as my husband has been a public employee in law enforcement for almost 28 years. It strikes me as a stunning event that the Blackwater guards were provided with Garrity immunity during the investigation into their actions. TPMuckraker points us to the ABC News story:

Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally —
and not for criminal prosecutions.

The reason this makes no sense to me is the very nature of Blackwater's mission. They are private contractors, not public employees. Garrity specifically applies to public employees. This explanation is pretty general but adequately explains Garrity and its reason for being:
The Garrity rule is somewhat similar to Miranda rights, but for public employees.

These people were not public employees but even if they were, they were not threatened with the loss of their jobs if they did not give a statement:
Important to the Garrity rule is the following: (1) whether the employer actually ordered or required the employee to respond to questions; and (2) whether the employee was compelled by the threat of discipline to answer.

In fact, the contractors were not subject to any disciplinary action from the DOJ, only from Blackwater, a private company that has relentlessly stood by their employees. To my knowledge, none of the involved security guards have been removed from their duties.

Aside from the issue as to whether the Diplomatic Security official had the authority to grant any type of immunity, the more important one is that Garrity did not apply in this situation. It could be argued that they should have been mirandized but that applies only to custodial interrogation, not the case here.

With all the legal horsepower in blogosphere (even here in our little corner), I'd really like to hear a more reasoned opinion, but right now, I'm thinking the immunity is crap.