California Court: Cops Must Respect Miranda Rights

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The California Supreme Court made it clear yesterday that it would no longer tolerate the practice of some California police agencies of deliberately ignoring a suspect’s right to remain silent, the Los Angeles Times reports. In doing so, the justices overturned the conviction of a man who had been convicted of strangling to death a 69-year-old man who had given him a home.

The defendant confessed after being “badgered” by a detective after he had asked for a lawyer nine times, the court said. Police denied Kenneth Ray Neal, 18, access to a lawyer, and they locked him up overnight without food, water or a toilet until he asked to speak to a detective and confessed. The detective testified that a supervisor had instructed him to ignore requests for lawyers in hope of getting confessions.

That practice violates a person’s rights under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Miranda decision. The Miranda rule requires officers to tell people who have been arrested that they have the rights to remain silent and to have an attorney. It prohibits interrogating a suspect who asks for a lawyer until the lawyer is present.

“The Supreme Court is sending a strong, clear, unmistakable message to police that they need to follow Miranda and be vigilant about the training of officers to follow Miranda,” said law Prof. Charles D. Weisselberg of the University of California-Berkeley, who argued in the case on behalf of criminal defense lawyers.


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