So yesterday I was flipping between Fox and MSNBC as they continued their battle to see who could be the first to report that the other one was wrong. During the “they made an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombings… oh no they didn’t” kerfuffle, I got sucked into the Megyn Kelly program which devolved into a discussion on whether or not the ALLEGED suspect should be Mirandized when he is caught, or “sent right down to Guantanamo.”
It occurred to me that there are whole throngs of humans out there, Americans, who honestly believe that reading somebody his rights or making sure a suspect has access to a lawyer is deleterious to justice, as opposed to being one of ways we ensure justice is done.
I trust there aren’t any real lawyers out there who believe that rights hurts the administration of justice as if life is one big freaking episode of The Closer….
Look, I don’t want to go down a constitutional rabbit hole of when, precisely, prophylactic Miranda warnings can be ignored. A scholarly discussion of the Fifth Amendment was not what I was hearing on Fox. Instead, there was the general view that somehow “Miranda rights” and “lawyers” get in the way of the application of justice.
It’s that point that I find to be ludicrous, and I’d hope that most in the legal community would agree with me.
Look, it seems to me that if and when they arrest the guy (or guys, or gals) the police will have three options:
- 1. Shoot him to death.
- 2. Beat the piss out of him.
- 3. Interrogate him.
I’d like to think that there is broad consensus that options one and two are potentially satisfying, but ultimately antagonistic to justice in a civilized society.
The police are going to interrogate him. And they’re going to do so in a way that they hope finds his accomplices and establishes his motives all in a way that will hold up in a court of law.
In that context, why wouldn’t they read him his rights? Are they afraid it will take too long? Remember, the Miranda rights are there to help law enforcement so that later criminals can’t claim that they were denied the protections of the the Fifth Amendment. They are a prophylactic for the cops so they don’t have to confirm that people truly understand their constitutional protections.
Why would these people on Fox argue that the cops should risk losing a good confession on self-incrimination grounds when it is so simple for police to just read the guy his rights?
See, I think what the anti-Miranda people really want is for people to not know their rights… because they think if he knows his rights, he might call a lawyer, and somehow that’ll just mess everything up.
You see, there is a world of people out there who think every criminal defense lawyer is Saul Goodman, a criminal who happens to be a lawyer and thinks that his job is to help criminals evade justice. In fact, good defense lawyers allow justice to proceed. Why do we even have a right against self-incrimination? It’s so people cannot be bullied into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit, or worse, confessing to facts that didn’t happen.
Letting a guy talk to his lawyer, especially a good lawyer, doesn’t necessarily slow down an investigation — it keeps things moving forward towards justice for the suspect and resolution for the victims.
I shouldn’t have to emphasize the word suspect to anybody who can remember the Richard Jewell fiasco. There was a guy, again on Fox, who said that the police only arrest people when they know they have enough for a conviction. That’s a statement that is so obviously false I don’t know what to do with it.
Miranda warnings, lawyers, and the presumption of innocence aren’t impediments to justice, they are the hallmarks of justice.
Bringing criminals to justice is what we’re supposed to do. Indiscriminately murdering people who we think wronged us is what they do. Somebody needs to remind Fox that the difference between us and them is our belief that conflicts can be resolved through a civilized process in a nation of laws, instead of with overwhelming, deadly force.