Police and prosecution roundup


  • Popehat presents a powerful argument that a woman was sentenced to death based on the word of an incredible witness.

    But he left out an important detail. Why did the actual killers choose the victim in the case? How did they benefit? Did the murdert have the characteristics of a thrill killing? Was there a high face value insurance policy?

    The knocks against the police officer carried the day at the appellate level as I understand Popehat’s article. But could that have been the flotsam from a busy career. Most doctors are sued at least once for malpractice in their careers. It is just a part of practice.

  • Could someone who knows for certain please provide a concise statement of “Miranda Rights”?

    Are they rights that every American citizen has inherently – with or without some “reading”?

    Or are they some kind of additional rights that an accused acquires upon hearing a specific “reading” from a police officer? That is, are they rights that regular, ordinary citizens don’t have?

    Or maybe something else?


  • William,

    I don’t think Ken is arguing that the woman is factually innocent. Rather, I think he’s saying she was denied the right to a fair trial.

    The sole witness who provided evidence against her was a known liar and a cop who stepped over the line on more than one occasion. But the jury wasn’t allowed to hear those facts because the prosecution didn’t disclose them. How can a jury judge his credibility when it’s only her word against his and he’s the one wearing a literal badge of authority?

  • Ken (Popehat) did not make this point directly, but it needs restatement: police departments that fail to record interrogations and witness statements are *evil*, and need to be called out at every opportunity. The national jury pool should be saturated with understanding that the only reason the police do not record what the defendant or witness (eg a child accuser in daycare cases) says is because police want to lie about it.

    On behalf of ethical prosecutors, however, it should also be established that they have the right to play such recordings at trial even if the witness subsequently disappears, or recants. Let the jury decide if a recantation is the more accurate version, or if it reflects coercion.

    Perhaps a “Living Witness Amendment” could balance a duty to record with a right to use the recording. (The “living witness” name would reflect the greatly reduced incentive to kill off witnesses before trial.)

  • JF:
    5th and 6th amendment of the constitution:
    “No person …. shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”
    “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

    So in sum, inherent rights guaranteed by the bill of rights.
    The trouble is, how do you enforce that people have such rights?
    In the Miranda case, under intense questioning the suspect confessed to a crime and signed a written confession, at trial the lawyer asked for the confession to be excluded because it was coerced. The US Supreme court agreed, and in the Miranda v. Arizona decision said that before an arrestee is interrogated, he must be “informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court” and that “he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.”
    So the rights are inherent, the court has ruled that arrestees must be explicitly told them, and the consequence of not mirandizing a suspect is that anything you learn from the interrogation will not be admissible in court as evidence during your prosecution of the suspect.
    The criticism of the decision is that prompting the suspect to “lawyer up” goes beyond what is in the text of the constitution, and that it only required that such statements not be coerced, rather than requiring that they can be thrown out if the police officers haven’t uttered the correct incantation in the presence of the subject before questioning.

  • Thanks Douglas2.

    The media seem determined to reference “Miranda rights” but your explanation suggests such rights do not exist because of Miranda but because they are in the Constitution.

    So based on your explanation, is it fair to say that there are no “Miranda rights” per se? And that all citizens have the rights involved because they are in the Constitution – that Miranda in essence is to ensure that no one will be ignorant of these Constitutional rights if arrested?

    Thanks again.

  • The Miranda Rights are a right to be informed of your 5th and 6th amendment rights.
    Arguably extant in and of themselves as necessary for truly having the rights explicitly described in the 5th and 6th, and perhaps one of the reasons for the 9th amendment which reminds congress and the courts that the existence in the Constitution of certain rights does not limit our rights to only those listed there.
    In practical terms the right to be informed of these 5th and 6th amendment rights is itself a right because the supreme court has said it is.