Common Miranda

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.gavel

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. And he spent years in prison.

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 to a theft, 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.

Editorial cartoon of the day

Editorial cartoon of the day

All we know is that they were evil

I’ve been away most of the weekend and am behind in the news, but it seems clear that we do not yet know why these idiots bombed Boston.

So when I see posts saying “They are Islamic terrorists” or “they are right-wing extremists” or “they are Obama supporters” I just ignore them, and I advise everyone else to do so as well until we know more.

The only thing we know for sure is that they were evil.

Editorial cartoon of the day

More jumping

Yesterday I criticized Fox for jumping to conclusions. I was right; they had to back away and admit that they were completely wrong.

Today, CNN and NBC (and Fox again) also read too much into something and proclaimed that a suspect was in custody when in fact the only real news was that a video had been found that showed someone who might be the bomber. More jumping to conclusions, but at least this time it wasn’t a “He’s Muslim so he must be guilty” situation.

I feel like yelling “everyone remain calm and remember Richard Jewell!”

Editorial cartoon of the day

Jumping to conclusions

I went to law school in Boston, just a few blocks from the bombing. I traveled Boylston Street often — to get to the Copley Place subway stop or go to the great Boston Public Library for books or guest lectures. I lived in Boston for a total of twelve years and often think I never should have left.

So of course, like everyone, I looked for answers. Who would do this horrible thing? And why?boston

I speculated. It sure seemed more like a home-grown attack than a terrorist one. It happened on tax day, in the home of the original tea party. And as my friend, journalist Steve Vaughan (a/k/a “Virginia Pundit”) said, “I’m not sure the targets would have the same resonance with our ‘friends’ in the Middle East. Also, no martyrs. Whoever did this planted the bombs, walked away and set them off by remote. That sounds like Americans.”

That doesn’t mean Steve and I are right. Just wondering, and speculating.

However, many don’t seem to care about speculating. Fox News (through the New York Post) wildly reported that there was a Muslim suspect in custody. Even after the Police denied the story, they stood by it. By today, when it was made clear that the police had merely spoken to a Muslim kid who was a witness (along with hundreds of other witnesses) did Fox back away. Fortunately, all the other reliable media have learned not to repeat anything reported by anything owned by Rupert Murdock. No such restriction was held with the right-wing blog, who gladly proclaimed their “truth” of the matter. And some of my conservative friends reposted these accusations over and over on their Facebook pages, spreading the crap.

Now, I don’t know. Maybe it was some Islamic extremist. Or maybe it was a home-grown one. Or maybe just a crazy person acting on his own. We don’t know yet.

It’s one thing to speculate based on evidence and the methods by which the bombing happened, and quite another to make huge accusations based on fear.

So I advise everyone: Be cynical. Be skeptical. Demand evidence.

And never trust anything connected with Fox News.

And always check Snopes first!