Thirty years after the United States Supreme court voted 5 to 4 overturning the
four cases known as Miranda vs. Arizona, Monroe County's 13-year District Attorney
Howard Relin calls the Miranda decision among the top three top criminal law cases in
the history of American juripridence-
RELIN: After I joined the District Attorney's office two years later in 1968, talking
with veteran policemen at that time and they said if we have to read suspects their
criminal rights no one will ever confess and this would destroy the criminal justice
system. And despite the concerns of police and preosecutors at that time, the Miranda
ruling has not had a great deal of effect in confessions because many defendants feel
compelled no matter how ridiculous it may be- they feel compelled to make an
Attorney David Murante has practiced law for the past 22 years. He calls Miranda a
step in the right direction and long overdue, an attempt to put the less advantaged on
an equal footing with those of greater means.
MURANTE: Everybody should be aware of their right to an attorney before they face quite
frankly, the awesome power of the state in connection with interrogation at police
headquaretrs surrounded by police people who generally have a bias towards a conclusion
the individual their interrogating is involved in the crime. Again, I think the Supreme
Court felt it only fair that that person be advised that if he wanted, he had a right to
talk to an attorney.
Murante says one problem with the process is that he feels the Miranda warnings may
not be effectively administered or not given at all.
MURANTE: If there is any concern about that on behalf of the police I think technology
has reached a state where ceratainly the rights of the accused could be protected in the
fact that the police when they claim they gave these rights had been documented through
video or audio taping- which in my mind is of deep concern. There is no requirement.
Communities on an individual basis that opted to use video taping I think are doing the
right thing. They're in essence saying, look we are complying with the law and we're not
afraid to take the steps in order to prove it, as opposed to just our word versus the
word of the accused down the road.
There is an exact time when the rights are to be issued: after the police have taken
someone into custody but before interrogation begins. Relin believes Miranda has
generated more legal decisions relating to what custody is to what being a suspect
is than almost any other case in America.
RELIN: Sometimes you'll have a defendant claimiing he was threatened or promises were
made to him. Those are things that also cannot be done during a voluntary conversation
with the defendant. And then it becomes a question for a hearing to be conducted and for
the defendant to be able to show if any of that in fact did occur. If the court were
satisfied that there had been some type of police inpropriety then the result is the
confession would be suppressed by the court.
Murante also belives that justice may further prevail if the Miranda rights were
explained not by the police but by an independent, unbiased individual.
MURANTE: I think the problem is that the police quite frankly want to control the
situation. They want to be the ones reading the rights because they can then be the ones
to testify that whether in fact they were given, and whether they were given effectively.
I t becomes less of an incumberance in their performance in their obligations. It's a
very rare occasion when I've seen the Miranda decision prevent law enforcement from
actually interrogating someone effectively. Most people gvie up those rights and may make
a statement. Whereas I think if they talked to an independent person, a person who is
independent of the police position, most people giving it some thought would say, wait a
minute, let me talk to a lawyer first, let me talk to my family first. At least let me
talk to the police in the presence of somebody whose got my interests at heart.
Thirty years old- the right to remain silent. Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.