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by Peter Moskos

June 1, 2010

Shut yo' mouth!

The Supreme Court ruled that suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent or want a lawyer to invoke their Miranda protection during interrogations. I'm pretty liberal guy, but I'm all for this conservative decision by the court.

Look, if you don't want to be convicted, the smartest thing you can do is shut up. Period. Don't talk. Demand a lawyer. It really is that simple.

But if everybody did just that, a lot of criminals would get away murder.

The point of the 5th Amendment isn't so that people don't confess. The point of a ban on forced self-incrimination is so that we don't torture people--guilty and innocent alike--into confessing.

I don't want forced confessions. I don't want false confessions. But I'm all for confessions. I mean if we're so worried about the right to remain silent, we could ban all interrogation of suspects. But that would be crazy.

There's not a hood rat in Baltimore or a person in America who doesn't know his or "right to remain silent." If somebody doesn't want to exercise that right, good for the rest of us. It shouldn't be the job of police to tell people to shut up.

You've got a murderer in a room. Three hours later police invoke God and the bad guy fesses up.

Good job!


Richard P. said...

"Look, if you don't want to be convicted, the smartest thing you can do is shut up. Period. Don't talk. Demand a lawyer. It really is that simple. "

Actually this ruling says you have to vocalize your claim to the right to shut up. But more than that, shouldn't convictions rest on more solid evidence than a confession? I thought it was a right to silence?

PCM said...

Asking for lawyer should end the interrogation. But whether you've asked for a lawyer or not, the best thing you can do in your own defense is shut up.

And what kind of evidence is more solid that a confession? I'm not confessions are fullproof (they're not). But what is?

Interrogation is a game. I want police to win that game.

Richard P. said...

It isn't like the Police or Prosecutors are having any trouble getting convictions.

Last time I checked, we lead the world in incarcerations.

As to better evidence, I understand your point, but rights shouldn't have to be invoked.

PCM said...

Oh but we don't get convictions! People get away with murder all the time.

Take this story in today's paper:
Chicago clears (ie: arrests somebody) for just 1/3 of its murders.

We have 2.3 million people behind bars because of violence, drug laws, and mandatory sentencing.

Jeff N said...

"Look, if you don't want to be convicted, the smartest thing you can do is shut up. Period. Don't talk. Demand a lawyer. It really is that simple."

What about the grey area before you are officially a suspect?Statements you make before you are a suspect can be used after you are mirandized and lawyered up can't they?

That supreme court got this one right though.

PCM said...

And you may not know you're a suspect when they talk to you.

Lawyer up. And then if they still ask you to talk, talk. It can't be used against you.

Marc said...

Here's the problem. While we're assuming that everyone should know to shut up and lawyer up, we're suspending teachers for teaching kids just that.


Cleanville Tziabatz said...

The Miranda warnings should be simplified. they should be required to be as follows:

You have been arrested for a crime. Do you want to have a lawyer representing you present when we question you?

The current wording of the Miranda warning is nonsense and leads to nonsense gamesmanship like this new case. This should not be a liberal versus conservative issue. It should be a clarity in communication issue.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Further to previous:

and police should be required to get a "no" answer to that simple question before asking any more questions.

The "right to remain silent" (or more precisely, the right to refuse to testify against oneself) is confusing. Defendants don't need police's "help" in trying to unravel that issue. What arrestees need is a simple choice, to wit: "do you want a lawyer?" anything designed to obfuscate that simple inquiry is bad, and should be considered as unConstitutional.

If the arrestee wants a lawyer, then the lawyer can be the one to help her out with the right to remain silent. If the arresstee does not want a lawyer then, at that point, they can be fairly presumed to know the contours of their legal rights, such as the right to remain silent.

Spark Check said...

Seasoned bad guys already know the game. It's the novice criminals who don't know how to shut up.

Johnny Law said...

Holy crap. I actually agree with everything Cleanville said on this subject. Miranda has turned into some goofy game where you have to check the boxes in the correct situations. It should be a common sense issue.

PCM said...

Holy effing crap indeed!

Bob G. said...

Gotta give props to Cleanville and Johnny Law.
It IS all about common-freaking-sense!

The only trouble I can see these days, is that WHEN the police play the game correctly AND by the rules, AND make REAL progress, some asshat goes and changes UP the damn rules...and 'ya gotta start all over from scratch.

I hate when that happens.

Stay safe out there.

Anonymous said...

So many folks here like to talk about police but have never played real police. So they say silly things, like "shouldn't convictions rest on more solid evidence than a confession?"

Miranda and all that isn't only about confessions. For example, it's about asking the guy where the murder weapon is, and then three hours later he says "It's in a ditch by the Carson City Interchange." I'd hate for that to be suppressed on Miranda grounds, and thankfully after this court holding it won't be.

There are lots of things other than simple confessions that interrogations yield. The names of accomplices, the locations of bodies, the MO used, motives for doing things, weapons and where they went, etc. None of these things are confessions, but all of them are vital to a case.

Anyway, there it is.

black said...

The Miranda warning was a simplification of the language in the actual Miranda decision. It's simply an application of the standard articulated in the caselaw. Ergo, the ball is in the judiciary on this one, not the cops. If cops start reading a new "copyedited Miranda," that could lead to unforeseen problems.

In the case appealed, the defendant refused to acknowledge that he had been Mirandized. So the issue here isn't the specificity of what they read, but the cops' reaction to the defendants' behavior.