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Archive for Friday, July 18, 2003

A worthy right

July 18, 2003

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This editorial appeared in Thursday's Los Angeles Times:

Forty years ago, Arizona police arrested Phoenix warehouse worker Ernesto Miranda on rape charges, took him into an interrogation room and shut the door. When they emerged two hours later, officers held Miranda's signed confession. What they told Miranda and whether they threatened him or roughed him up is not entirely clear. They definitely didn't tell him that the Constitution gave him the right not to incriminate himself. They didn't tell him, before he confessed, that he was entitled to an attorney or that anything he told them could be used against him.

Four years ago, Tulare police arrested Kenneth Ray Neal, then 18, for the strangulation of Donald Collins, with whom Neal had lived. Detectives ushered Neal into a cell at the Porterville station. Nine times over the next 24 hours, Neal asked for a lawyer. Not only did detectives deliberately ignore him, they locked him up overnight without food, water or a toilet until he confessed.

Neal's treatment seems far more egregious than Miranda's, especially occurring decades after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Miranda's conviction.

The California Supreme Court, in a blistering ruling Monday, overturned Neal's murder conviction and left no doubt that such an "unconscionable" practice must end. Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote: "Our community must never be subjected to cynical efforts by police agencies to exploit perceived legal loopholes by encouraging improper interrogation tactics."

Next term, the U.S. Supreme Court considers three Miranda challenges. ... The California decision should at least be part of the justices' summer reading.

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