The federal courts have really been at it recently when it comes to the rights of the accused. Our first example comes from the recent Supreme Court case Maryland vs. Shatzer. Mr. Shatzer was taken into custody and read his Miranda rights, after which he expressed his desire for a lawyer. This action invokes what was known as the “Edwards Rule” which denies the police the ability to question the suspect until he has had a chance for counsel. When nothing was able to be extracted from Mr. Shatzer, he was released. 2 1/2 years later he was again arrested and asked about his prior charges. This time he decided to discuss the events, but since he had originally invoked his right to counsel, any evidence he now gave would be inadmissable.
Well, according to the Supreme Court, not anymore. They have now created an arbitrary 14-day waiting period for police to badger their suspect. What is the logic behind this? Let’s look at some of Scalia’s quotes from his opinion:
In a country that harbors a large number of repeat offenders, the consequence [of this no-further-questioning rule] is disastrous…It seems to us that period is 14 days, that provides plenty of time for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life [and] to consult with friends and counsel.
So basically Scalia is saying that because you might have done something, and because of that you might do something again, and since we cannot hold you for any other reason, your rights expire after 14 days and the police may now pick you up for questioning. Anyone who has ever been involved in or has read about the power of police interrogations would be appalled by this blatant disregard for Constitutional Rights. According to the Innocence Project, 25% of those exonerated by DNA evidence had given a confession to the crime. This decision will also set a precedent that our rights have expiration dates, and that the court can arbitrarily set a time limit on when you deserve protections.
While this case is obviously one that has trounced on liberty, it’s not the worst yet. In a recent decision (US v Lemus), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals basically declared the 4th Amendment a dead letter. In this case the defendant was arrested outside of his house. The police used that arrest to then conduct a warrentless and suspicionless search of his entire house, which surfaced a gun. The court upheld the search as constitutional. In his dissent Hon. Judge Alex Kozinski has this to say about the outcome of this case:
Whatever may have been left of the Fourth Amendment after [United States v. Black] is now gone. The evisceration of this crucial constitutional protector of the sanctity and privacy of what Americans consider their castles is pretty much complete. Welcome to the fish bowl.
In my research for this post I noticed that Lemus was decided on by Jay Bybee. For anyone who remembers this is the man who, with John Yoo and David Addington, used constitutional jujitsu to authorize the use of torture. In his infamous Bybee Memo Bybee gave a slapped together opinion that all but allowed the CIA to kill and then revive detainees for “interrogation.” His opinion has been laughed at by an overwhelming majority of legal scholars. Bybee has also been accused of committing war crimes and is indicted in UK and Spanish torture trials. So I guess we can commend him on one thing: He is at least consistent in destroying everything this country has stood for. I wonder what it takes to get disbarred anymore?
*Note* Shatzer was convicted of child molestation and Lemus was a convicted gang member, but while I might vehemetly disagree with their actions, the emotional aspect of each case should not sway either way our understanding of how this affects everyday people.
It’s not easy defending these people, but they deserve the same rights that we do. These cases will reverberate past these explicit circumstances. So while it is hard to justify defending someone who would harm innocents, you must remember that this case law now affects every other case like it, as well as police procedure.Published in