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Supreme Court Waters Down Miranda Rights Again

The Supreme Court yesterday, in 6 to 3 decision joined by Justice Elena Kagen, struck another blow at Miranda Rights. The opinion in Howes, Warden v. Fields is here.

The record in this case reveals that respondent was not taken into custody for purposes of Miranda. To be sure, respondent did not invite the interview or consent to it in advance, and he was not advised that he was free to decline to speak with the deputies.

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DOJ/FBI Curtails Miranda Rights For Terror Suspects

Update: The text of the memo is here.

The Wall St. Journal has obtained a copy of a new Department of Justice Memorandum authorizing a delay in providing Miranda rights to terror suspects in certain circumstances.

The move is one of the Obama administration's most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S. And it potentially opens a new political tussle over national security policy, as the administration marks another step back from pre-election criticism of unorthodox counterterror methods.

Isn't this a risky move by DOJ? What authority does it have to change Miranda rights? Shouldn't this be up to Congress or the Supreme Court? [More..]

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Supreme Court Imposes Restrictions on Exercising Miranda Rights

The Supreme Court today ruled that suspects must affirmatively state their intent to remain silent and request a lawyer when being questioned by police in order for statements they make to be suppressed. The court was divided 5 to 4. Justice Sotomayor, in a dissent, wrote:

"Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent - which counterintuitively, requires them to speak," she said. "At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded."

The case is The case is Berghuis v. Thompkins, 08-1470 and the opinion is here.

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Civil Liberties Groups Urge Holder and Obama Not to Water Down Miranda

Just reading the list of 35 signatories to this letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder today urging him to abandon efforts to have Congress water down Miranda rights, gives hope that progressive lobbying is still alive in this country.

In its letter to the Attorney General, the coalition stated, “Current law provides ample flexibility to protect the public against imminent terrorist threats while still permitting the use of statements made by the accused in a criminal prosecution. Weakening Miranda would undercut our fundamental Fifth Amendment rights for no perceptible gain.”

Here are the groups and the text of the letter: [More...]

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Supreme Court Begins New Term

Monday, the Supreme Court, with newly appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor, begins its new term. Among the cases of interest:

  • Whether police may reinterrogate a continuously imprisoned suspect about an offense for which he invoked his right to counsel three years earlier
  • The applicability of Second Amendment gun rights to state and local governments
  • Whether the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars Florida from imprisoning juveniles for the rest of their lives without any possibility for parole.
  • The validity of a federal law that allows the government to hold alleged sexual predators indefinitely in protective custody once they are deemed to be "sexually dangerous," even after they have served a full criminal sentence.
  • Whether Congress has the power to ban possession and distribution of images of animal cruelty, such as pit bull fights.

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