U.S. Supreme Court could make Miranda warnings thing of the past

Jacob Levich jlevich at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 1 20:48:54 MST 2002

U..S. Supreme Court could make Miranda warnings thing of the past

LOS ANGELES (AP) --For five years, Oliverio Martinez has been blind and
paralyzed as the result of a police shooting. Now he is at the center of a
U.S. Supreme Court case that could determine whether decades of restraints
on police interrogations should be discarded.
The blanket requirement for a Miranda warning to all suspects that they
have the right to remain silent could end up in the rubbish bin of legal
history if the court concludes police were justified in aggressively
questioning the gravely wounded Martinez while he screamed in agony.
"I am dying! ... What are you doing to me?" Martinez is heard screaming on
a recording of the persistent interrogation by police Sgt. Ben Chavez in
Oxnard, a city of 182,000 about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
"If you are going to die, tell me what happened," the officer said. He
continued the questioning in an ambulance and an emergency room while
Martinez pleaded for treatment. At times, he left the room to allow medical
personnel to work, but he returned and continued pressing for answers.
No Miranda warning was given.
A ruling that minimizes defendants' rights would be useful to the
administration, which supports Oxnard's appeal, in its questioning of
terrorism suspects, experts said.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a federal judge that the
confession was coerced and cannot be used as evidence against Martinez in
his excessive-force civil case against the city. It said Chavez should have
known that questioning a man who had been shot five times, was crying out
for treatment and had been given no Miranda warning was a violation of his
constitutional rights.
Oxnard appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear
arguments in the case Wednesday.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief along with
police organizations and the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
contending that unfettered police questioning is allowable so long as the
information obtained from a suspect is not used against that person in court.
Opponents of the government position say a ruling diluting the Miranda
protections would be another nail in the coffin of individual rights
sacrificed in the interest of rooting out terrorists.

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