* Court Retreats From Miranda Rights *
- View SourceJ.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California May, 28, 2003
Court RetreatsFrom Miranda Rights
Court Gives Leeway to Interrogatehttp://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-miranda28may28,1,3849650.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2DheadlinesJustices deal a blow to Miranda right, say a person can be forced to talk in bid for evidence.
By David G. Savage, Times Staff WriterMay 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 are not
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.
Tuesday's 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.
Civil 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 remain silent.
"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 system."
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.
The Martinez case examined whether the Constitution protects a person when he is being questioned by police, or only later at a future trial.
In past 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 first?
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