Let the beatings begin!: Miranda a mirage?

Published 16 years ago -  - 16y ago 40

If Bush administration lawyers get their way Miranda will soon be a mirage. The Supreme Court accepted the Martinez case that challenges the 1966 Miranda ruling.

David G. Savage writes, “…Oxnard police assert that the Miranda ruling does not include a ‘constitutional right to be free of coercive interrogation,’ but only a right not to have forced confessions used at trial. Bush administration lawyers have sided with the police in the case. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Dec. 4. Police can hold people in custody and force them to talk, so long as their incriminating statements are not used to prosecute them, U.S. Solicitor Gen. Theodore B. Olson and Michael Chertoff, the chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, say in their brief to the court.”

Let the beatings begin!

“It ‘will chill legitimate law enforcement efforts to obtain potentially life-saving information during emergencies,’ including terrorism alerts, if police and FBI agents can be sued for coercive questioning, they add.”

Let’s grant the police immunity from prosecution after making bullying “legal.”

Once the agents of the State become immune from prosecution, who can/will stop them? The nation is up in arms over bullying in schools, yet the State (and it’s agents) should somehow be immune from prosecution for the same behavior that will get its own citizens arrested, charged, and prosecuted?

“Legal experts on the other side of the case foresee far-reaching effects if the police prevail.”

No kidding.

“This will be, in essence, a reversal of Miranda,” said University of Texas law professor Susan Klein.”


“Officers will be told Miranda is not a constitutional right. If there is no right, and you are not liable, why should you honor the right to silence?” she asked. “I think it means you will see more police using threats and violence to get people to talk. Innocent people will be subjected to very unpleasant experiences.”

There’s the understatement of the year.

“The Miranda decision grew out of the 5th Amendment, which says no person ‘shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.’ This has long been known as the right against self-incrimination.”

But if Bush administration lawyers prevail this becomes a non-problem. Police will “legally” be able to coerce, bully, and beat information out of people that will be admissible in court against someone else. Use your imagination to foretell the results. One step removed from a third-world banana republic seems to fit nicely.

“The Supreme Court in the 1950s and ’60s struggled in a series of cases to decide whether a person’s confessions to the police had been voluntary or compelled…In frustration, Chief Justice Earl Warren announced a broad new rule in Miranda vs. Arizona. He said that because police questioning is inherently coercive, officers must warn suspects of their rights before questioning begins. His opinion and others that followed it described the so-called Miranda warnings as limitations on the police.

“But all along, some lawyers and law professors have questioned whether the Miranda warnings themselves are a constitutional requirement…Is there a constitutional right to be free of coercive police interrogation?

“The answer to that question should be no…In a 1990 ruling, [Chief Justice] Rehnquist commented that the right against self-incrimination in the 5th Amendment was a ‘trial right.’ Police cannot violate this right when they force someone to talk, since ‘a constitutional violation occurs only at trial,’ the chief justice said.

“The National Assn. of Police Organizations, the California attorney general’s office and the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento all have urged the court to use the Martinez case to make clear that the Constitution does not limit forceful police questioning. Contrary to the 9th Circuit’s conclusion, there is no ‘right to silence,’ said Oxnard’s lawyer Alan E. Wisotsky.”

The police are free to use coercive methods to procure any information that they seek and as long as incriminating evidence is not used in court against the person who provided it, that person’s rights were not violated.

“Under a post-Civil War law, city and state officials, including police officers, can be sued in federal court if they violate a person’s rights under the U.S. Constitution.”

But as long as the coerced information is not used in court against the person who provided it, that person’s rights were not violated, rendering this federal law useless.

“The pro-police advocates say that torturing a suspect, or perhaps denying him food and water for an extended period of time, would be unconstitutional. They say that ‘shocking’ or ‘brutal’ police conductcould be punished.” [Emphasis added.]

Doesn’t that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?

“Klein, of the University of Texas, filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the National Police Accountability Project. She argued that innocent people will be particularly vulnerable if the court rules the Constitution does not forbid coercive police questioning. Criminal suspects still can insist their incriminating statements not be used against them at trial. But an innocent person who is held for questioning would have no right and no remedy, she said.”

The guilty will sing like songbirds to avoid prosecution, the police will use whatever coercive methods work, and innocent people will pay the price.

Once again, the State stands ready to punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty, but some of the guilty will go free, as long as they provide the information that the police seek regarding the behavior of someone else.

The end result would be: he who sings first walks. He who doesn’t sing can expect to be in custody for extended periods of time and subject to coercive methods of interrogation and probably much worse, even if innocent.

It doesn’t take a genius to see what is likely to happen. The State can easily reverse Miranda, without actually doing so. It can “clarify” the existing ruling, but the net effect would be to reverse it.

If Bush administration lawyers prevail the State would win big: a) its agents would be granted immunity from prosecution (reversing current federal law), b) its agents would be granted unlimited interrogation powers (much like the Gestapo), and c) its agents would be free to use coerced information from the guilty to prosecute, convict, and incarcerate each other (at taxpayer expense).

The innocent (and taxpayers) would lose big time, just like always.

Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”

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