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Vol. 76/No. 12      March 26, 2012

Court gives cops green light to
further weaken ‘Miranda rule’
(front page)
The U.S. Supreme Court in late February issued a decision further chipping away at the Miranda rule, which requires police to inform individuals about certain rights before interrogating them.

The ruling gives cops a green light to more openly deny working people the constitutional protection against self-incrimination. At the same time, for working people the Miranda rule itself has increasingly become little more than a procedure cops check as part of the frame-up routine of grueling interrogations, violence, coerced “confessions” and plea bargains under threat of ever harsher sentences.

Under the impact of the advancing civil rights battles, the Miranda rule was established in June 1966. The Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Ernesto Miranda, who was convicted by the state of Arizona on charges of rape and kidnapping on the basis of a coerced “confession” that he later recanted. The court ruling said cops are required to inform those in custody that they have right to remain silent and have an attorney present during interrogation, and that any statements they make can be used against them in court. Miranda was retried and convicted four months later, despite a lack of physical evidence or victim identification.

The court’s most recent decision says the Miranda procedure does not apply to prisoners, using the crooked argument that inmates are “not in custody” even though they are behind bars. The case involved Randall Fields, held in a Michigan jail on disorderly conduct charges. Armed deputies moved him from his cell for seven hours of interrogation, coercing him to confess to a sex crime for which he was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison.

This revision to the law is but the latest attack on Miranda rights over the last couple years. In 2010 the FBI issued then secret “guidelines” instructing its agents to say nothing about Miranda during the initial interrogation of individuals labeled “terrorists,” and maybe to “Mirandize” detainees later.

Also in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that a Michigan man who remained silent despite three hours of harsh police interrogation should be convicted after the cops tricked him into answering yes in response to three questions. “Do you believe in God?” “Do you pray to God?” and “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Another ruling that year said police can, in the words of the New York Times, “vary the wording.” Yet another says cops can pick up individuals who have invoked their right to remain silent for a second round of questioning two weeks after releasing them.

Most working people, particularly those who are Black, are convicted today as a result of plea bargains extracted through coercion by police and prosecutors—making Miranda rights largely irrelevant. “The jury trial has become a rare occurrence,” noted an article in the January 30 issue of the Nation magazine. The article pointed out that prosecutors often threaten to push for life sentences for minor crimes unless a “deal” is struck prior to going to trial. Today, it reported, “more than 95 percent of felony convictions in metropolitan counties are the result of guilty pleas.”  
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