It always amazes me how politicians who hate “Big Federal Government” can say with a straight face that people should have few rights when they are accused of a crime. Recently there has been a rash of complaints from these idiots over the fact that the Boston bomber was (gasp) given his Miranda rights.
Last I checked, the first ten amendments weren’t called the Bill of Privileges.
Rights are meaningless if we only give them to people we like. Who needs freedom of speech when you say nothing offensive? Why care about freedom to assemble if you’re just having a picnic? Rights are there for unpopular views and the things we don’t like.
Giving someone the right to remain silent, to see a lawyer, and to not be railroaded by Big Government protects all of us, and keeps us from becoming a police state. I am astounded how conservatives who rail against government “ruling over us” never complain when they rule over us in criminal proceedings.
People also misunderstand Miranda. (I know many of my clients do.) They think that if the police don’t “read you your rights” that the case will be thrown out of court. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Let’s talk about the original Miranda case, which happened in the early 60s. Ernesto Miranda was arrested for suspicion in a terrible kidnapping and rape case. The police took him in and questioned him without a lawyer and without telling Miranda (who barely spoke English) that he had those rights. He eventually confessed. The Supreme Court held that because his confession was not given “knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily” it could not be used in court. So did he go free? Not at all. They had plenty of other evidence to convict him even without the confession. He died in prison years later when he was killed by a fellow inmate.
There are some times when all the police have is a confession. Then the case would die. I had a case like that. I won, the DA appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and I won again. My client was a scared woman who had never been arrested before, was coerced by an officer and told that if she didn’t confess, he would handcuff her and drag her out in front of all her co-workers and tell the media. Clearly that was not a “voluntary” confession.
But that doesn’t happen very often.
Generally, police like giving Miranda rights because it protects them. If someone talks after being given the rights, it is practically impossible for an attorney to keep that out of evidence. You’d be surprised how many accused criminals talk before seeing a lawyer, stupidly thinking they can make things better by just telling their side of the story. And then they hire me and I’m stuck with a confession I can’t get rid of.
So let’s celebrate our freedom from unconstitutional violations of our right to remain silent, and cheer the Attorney General’s decision to give this bomber his rights. We are better than the people who attack us. We mean what we say in the Constitution. And we are better Americans because of it.