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Posts Tagged ‘Miranda Warning’

Meet Miranda: ‘You Have the Right to …’

In liberty and rights on May 10, 2010 at 12:20 am


There has been much to do lately about so-called “Miranda rights.” Specifically,  when they should be read and who should be read them. 

The truth is, there are no such thing as Miranda rights. There is the Miranda warning as established by the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona.  

Miranda, once read, does not magically entitle a suspect with rights as in “the right to remain silent” and the “right to an attorney.” Rather, it simply recognizes privileges already established in the U.S. Constitution — specifically the Fifth and Sixth Amendments which guarantee suspects “the Assistance of Counsel” and from being “Compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” 

Actually, the purpose of the Miranda ruling wasn’t to protect suspects at all: it was to protect evidence obtained by law enforcement so that it may be admissible in court. Chief Justice Warren, delivering the opinion of the Court, said: 

“More specifically, we deal with the admissibility of statements obtained from an individual who is subjected to custodial police interrogation and the necessity for procedures which assure that the individual is accorded his privilege under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution not to be compelled to incriminate himself.” 

Miranda also provides a “public safety” exception where officers may question a suspect without first obtaining a waiver if they believe a person to have “information that could help save a life, prevent serious injury, or neutralize a substantial threat to property.” This exception was recently employed by officers interrogating New York car bomber, Faisal Shahzad.  

But Miranda doesn’t apply only to U.S. citizens. All arrested persons, before being interrogated, are read the Miranda warning. The Supreme Court ruled that “persons suspected or accused of a crime” should be read the safeguard. Likewise, the Constitution refers to “any person” and “the accused.” In some states, suspects who are not citizens are read additional warnings such as “If you are not a United States citizen, you may contact your country’s consulate prior to any questioning.”  

Chief Justice Warren explained the Court’s conclusion: 

“Today, then, there can be no doubt that the Fifth Amendment privilege is available outside of criminal court proceedings and serves to protect persons in all settings in which their freedom of action is curtailed in any significant way from being compelled to incriminate themselves.  

We have concluded that without proper safeguards the process of in-custody interrogation of persons suspected or accused of crime contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.” 

So when we’re talking about reading terror suspects their “rights,” it’s important to remember that these aren’t actually rights, but warnings to protect officers and, most importantly, evidence obtained. Miranda is merely a safeguard put in place to ensure the rule of law and promote justice.

The rights of terrorists Part I

In liberty and rights on April 19, 2010 at 3:04 am

It’s no surprise Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration are caving to pressure by leading Republicans to try terror suspects in military tribunals. What is surprising is the lack of outrage from the American people who actually appear in favor of such kangaroo courts.

Probably because most Americans are under the delusion that the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Miranda Warning only apply to U.S. citizens. They need to do their homework.

The entire case for military tribunals rests on the assumption that A) terrorists are not American citizens and B) they are therefore not entitled to the “rights of the accused.” But the notion that only citizens are privilege to the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution is completely unfounded.

Nowhere in the Bill of Rights do the words “American” or “citizen” appear. Instead, the language simply refers to persons and the accused as in “The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.”

Likewise the 14th amendment, which made the Bill of Rights applicable to state law, makes a strong distinction between U.S. citizens and persons in general:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So the 14th amendment prohibits states from abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens while at the same time prohibiting them from depriving any person of due process and equal protection under the law.

See The rights of terrorists Part II

The rights of terrorists Part II

In liberty and rights on April 19, 2010 at 2:59 am

While many Republicans and even Democrats are crying foul over the Obama administrations’ proposal to read terror suspects the Miranda Warning, it appears the Bush administration has already done so. According to a February 2008 article by The Washington Post, FBI agents were reading suspected terrorists their rights long before Obama stepped foot in the Oval Office.

In an attempt to bring six of the men allegedly connected to the Sept. 11 attacks to justice, including mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Bush administration assigned FBI agents to obtain information that could be admissible in court. According to the article:

“The men were read rights similar to a standard U.S. Miranda warning, and officials designed the program to get to the information the CIA already had gleaned by using waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and other techniques such as sleep deprivation, forced standing and the use of extreme temperatures.

Prosecutors and top administration officials essentially wanted to cleanse the information so that it could be used in court, a process that federal prosecutors typically follow in U.S. criminal cases with investigative problems or botched interrogations.”

They argument that the Miranda Warning applies only to U.S. citizens is equally an uneducated one. The fact is all criminal suspects, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda vs. Arizona, are entitled to be informed of their rights. This means all persons detained, including immigrants and foreigners, are read their Miranda rights. The obvious purpose of Miranda is to assure information obtained is admissible in a court of law as required by the Bill of Rights.

Miranda aside, the underlying assumption driving the motives of those advocating military tribunals is that the crime of terrorism is so horrible precedent and law do not apply and/or that terror suspects are already guilty. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear conservative pundits referring to Guantanamo Bay detainees as terrorists rather than suspected terrorists. It’s as if they’ve already made up their minds — no evidence or trial necessary.

As Americans, we must remember why we have protections in place such as those in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The rights enumerated in these documents were not bestowed on us by our enlightened and all-wise founders. They could not be given, as they already belonged to us by the mere fact of our humanity. Just as each and every American has the inherent right to justice, so to do such detested figures as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden.

Detested, but still human.

See The Rights of Terrorists Part I