May, 28, 2003
Court Gives Leeway to
Justices deal a blow to Miranda right, say a person can be forced
to talk in bid for evidence.
By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
May 28th, 2003
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court narrowed the right
against self-incrimination Tuesday, ruling that police and government
investigators can force an unwilling person to talk, as long as those admissions
used to prosecute them.
The 6-3 opinion undercuts the
well-known Miranda warnings, in which officers tell individuals of their right
to remain silent. It appears to allow more aggressive police questioning of
reluctant witnesses in the hope of obtaining evidence. While a person's words
cannot be used against him or her in court, evidence can be.
decision also could prove useful to the government in the war on terrorism. The
FBI agents who fanned out around the country after the terrorist attacks in New
York and at the Pentagon mostly wanted
information, not criminal convictions.
Most immediately, however, the decision throws out part of a lawsuit
brought on behalf of a gravely wounded farm worker in Oxnard who was questioned
in a hospital emergency room by a police supervisor.
The officers who
shot Oliverio Martinez in the face and back can be sued for using excessive
force, and possibly for "outrageous conduct" at the hospital, the court said.
But the justices ruled that the police
supervisor who repeatedly questioned
Martinez did not violate his 5th Amendment rights in doing so.
libertarians worried that the decision signals a retreat from the Miranda
rulings of the past. Already, the court has agreed to hear three Miranda cases
in the fall, one testing whether police can deliberately
violate the right to
"When the court handed down Miranda [in 1966], it set out
clear lines. When you crossed the line, you violated the constitutional right,"
said Charles Weisselberg, a UC Berkeley law professor. "Now Miranda has become
something else - a rule of evidence, but not a constitutional right. I fear that
means it will have less respect from police, judges and the criminal justice
Police advocates applauded the ruling.
"This is a good win for the law enforcement community," said Charles L.
Hobson of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento. "It will be the
rare case where an officer is ever held liable for questioning. This shows that
Miranda is just about excluding evidence at a trial," he said, not about setting
constitutional rules for questioning.
Since December, when the court
took up the farm worker's case, the justices have been reconsidering the reach
of the Miranda decision and the right against self-incrimination.
Martinez case examined whether the Constitution protects a person when he is
being questioned by police, or only later at a future trial.
decades, the more liberal Supreme Court had said that suspects and witnesses had
a right to remain silent. The 1966 decision in Miranda vs. Arizona held that
police officers must tell people of their rights
before questioning them.
What is interesting in this Martinez Case decision
is that, in effect, the 5th Amendment, according to the Supreme Court, is
different than it was, although it has not been amended. And in this
manner, every provision of the Constitution can be amended by the courts
without amending it.
As a historical background of the Miranda case, the
police burned Mr. Miranda on the back repeatedly with cigarette butts in order
to compel him to speak. He brought suit for this act, and the case went all the
way to the Supreme Court, which determined that no one can be compelled to talk.
What the Supreme Court is now saying in this Martinez
Case, is that if there is not intent to prosecute criminally, then the 5th
Amendment does not protect people's rights, and police can now force
people to speak against their will.
But what the Supreme Court is overlooking is the intent
of our Founding Fathers, namely the 1st Amendment. It protects the
right to speak, and the right not to speak, for the right to
speak, of necessity, also includes the right not to speak!
In one of my jail experiences,
every time I said, "I stand on my Constitutional Rights," the police
turned on electricity, and tortured me with four electric
probes they shot into my body.
Under this Martinez standard, are
we now to entertain this as appropriate police action to compel people to speak
so long as they are not prosecuted criminally? Is this not like the archaic
practice of raping a man's wife in front of him, or slaying his children
before his eyes in order to compel him to speak? Only on the Martinez standard, you cannot prosecute him, just
compel him to speak!
How oft have I said that their can be no police state
in this country without concurance of the judiciary. This is way we must have
judicial accountability, and soon. When, Oh, When,
America, are you going to wake up? Our country is in grave Peril
without the passage of J.A.I.L.!Must we lose all our protected rights
J.A.I.L. is an acronym for Judicial Accountability Initiative
JAIL's very informative website is found at www.jail4judges.org
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