High Court Split On Miranda Interpretations


Did the Supreme Court clarify or muddle advice for police officers in its latest rulings interpreting the Miranda decision on suspects’ rights? One case yesterday concluded that police may not under most circumstances deliberately question a suspect twice – the first time without advising suspects of their right to remain silent – to elicit incriminating statements, says the Christian Science Monitor. In a second case, the justices ruled that a suspect’s rights had not been violated because he had not been read the full Miranda warning before admitting that he illegally possessed a gun. “It shows you how badly they’re split over Miranda, what it means and how much breadth it could be given,” says James Tomkovicz of the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City. “One of the more unfortunate aspects is that these badly split opinions – which were tied to the facts in the case – provide little guidance to law enforcement officers and the courts in future cases.”

Of the double interrogation technique, which is taught to many officers, Justice Anthony Kennedy said it “undermines the Miranda warning and obscures its meaning.” The court left the door open for police to use some confessions obtained after double interviews. Kennedy said police must be able to prove that the interrogation was not “calculated” to undermine Miranda. In the other case, the court sided with police, overturning a decision in favor of a Colorado man who had told an officer not to bother reading him the Miranda warnings. Dissenter David Souter said “there is no way to read this case except as an unjustifiable invitation to law enforcement officers to flout Miranda when there may be physical evidence to be gained.”

Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0629/p10s01-usju.html

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