The legal battle over what is an adequate Miranda warning continues nearly four decades after the Supreme Court required warnings to suspects in criminal cases. The Baltimore Sun notes that a judge in Anne Arundel County, Md., threw out an alleged confession in a high-profile Annapolis killing, ruling that an eight-word query from a police officer was improper.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear three cases that could give police more leeway with the warnings. In one case, Missouri police, who were trained to sidestep the Miranda protections, used a two-part interrogation to obtain a confession in a murder case. “These cases pose a great danger to Miranda,” says Yale Kamisar, a law professor at the University of Michigan and the University of San Diego who has been writing about confessions for 40 years. “If the court backs away, the original opinion doesn’t mean anything.”
The warnings, which begin “You have the right to remain silent,” combine two rights aimed at preventing police abuses in questioning suspects: the constitutional rights to a lawyer and to not incriminate oneself. They are named for the landmark 1966 Supreme Court ruling Ernesto Miranda vs. Arizona, which was designed to prevent coerced confessions.
Most worrisome for Miranda’s proponents is the two-step process to be reviewed by the Supreme Court review that police used with murder suspect Patrice Seibert in a Missouri case. In overturning her murder conviction, that state’s highest court called it “undeniably an ‘end-run’ around Miranda.” An officer – who admitted that his and other police departments were trained this way – questioned her without explaining her rights. After she confessed, he gave the Miranda warnings, which she waived, and questioned her based on what she had told him previously.