Friday, July 1, 2016

Guest Column: It’s time to take another look at the Miranda ruling

Matthew T. Mangino
Delaware County Daily Times, Guest Columnist
June 28, 2016
Fifty years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that police officers are required to inform a suspect that he has the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel when being questioned. Those rights have evolved overtime and not necessarily for the better.
The landmark Supreme Court decision has become a part of American culture. Miranda’s conversion from legal holding to cultural icon is due mainly to the nation’s insatiable appetite for television crime dramas. Everyone with a TV has heard Miranda warnings.
What did Miranda do to earn his place in the American consciousness? In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for robbery. While in the midst of a custodial interrogation by police he confessed to raping an 18 year-old woman. At trial, prosecutors offered his confession into evidence. Miranda was convicted of rape and sentenced to prison. He appealed and his case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Miranda and excluded his confession. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the court’s opinion finding a confession would be barred under the Fifth and Sixth amendments unless a suspect had been made aware of his rights and the suspect had waived them. Warren made it clear, “If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease ... If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.”
As we mark the fiftieth anniversary of Miranda, it is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has continually tested, and at times, expanded and restricted, the decision.
For instance, in 1981 the Edwards rule was established. The court held once an accused invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation a valid waiver of that right could not be later established. The rule created a presumption that once a suspect invoked his right to the presence of counsel pursuant to Miranda, any waiver of that right in response to a subsequent police attempt at custodial interrogation was involuntary.
That changed in 2010. In a case out of Maryland, the court established a bright-line rule finding if at least 14 days passed from the time the suspect invoked his rights under Miranda the police could again initiate an interrogation of the suspect.
Although the Miranda warnings are etched in nearly everyone’s consciousness, the Supreme Court found that the police do not have to use those magical words to get the point across. In a 2010 case out of Florida, the court said as long as the rights are articulated to a suspect in a reasonable manner and the rights are understood they are sufficient. The rights that most of us can recite by rote do not need to be conveyed by the police with any precision.
Finally in 2013, in a case out of Texas, a murder suspect who answered questions for almost an hour was then asked by police if the shotgun shells found at the murder scene would match a shotgun found in his home. The suspect stopped talking.
The police made notes of his conduct once he stopped talking. According to the Supreme Court, the suspect “[l]ooked down at the floor, shuffled his feet, bit his bottom lip, cl[e]nched his hands in his lap, [and] began to tighten up.”
That conduct was used at his trial as evidence that he was hiding his guilt. The Supreme Court found that silence is not enough to invoke the right to remain silent. For purpose of the Fifth Amendment, silence isn’t what it used to be.
Miranda has been revered for half a century. The decision, which outlined specific rules for those accused of a crime, has evolved into a nuanced set of standards that can lure the unsophisticated person into a false sense of constitutional protection.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. in New Castle, Pa. His book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

California takes on gun violence research

California will open the nation's first public research center dedicated to the study of gun violence, reported Governing magazine.
The California Firearm Violence Research Center will fill the hole that Congress left when it defunded and effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's gun research in 1996.
The news comes on the heels of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, where 49 people were shot dead in an Orlando gay nightclub earlier this month. Since then, Congress has been embattled in emotional and fierce debates that have led to a 15-hour filibuster and a 25-hour sit-in but no legislative action on gun control.
 “Congressional inaction means that states are going to have to step up more on the local level,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. 
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun rights groups, which lobbied for the federal ban in the 1990s, oppose government-funded research because they believe it's essentially advocacy work on behalf of pro-gun control legislators.
“It is obvious that the research conducted under SB 1006 will not be favorable to law-abiding gun owners,” said a statement on the NRA’s website.
California state Sen. Lois Wolk, who spearheaded the bill, doesn't buy the NRA's claims.
"The hollowness of their arguments was on display for everyone to see," she said. "Plus, this bill had bipartisan support from the beginning."
California already has a Violence Prevention Research Center at the University of California, Davis. The new center, however, will focus specifically on firearm violence -- and not just in California. Researchers will study policies, trends and patterns on firearm violence from around the world. Officials in the university system will convene later this summer to decide on which campus it will be located.
The forthcoming center has a surprising ally: former Congressman Jay Dickey of Arkansas, who authored the amendment that ended the CDC’s gun research. In recent years, he has said he regrets that decision.
“California is setting a very good example by supporting the research that will empower their legislators to protect both its citizens and their gun rights," he said in a statement.
To read more CLICK HERE

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bringing back advocacy to the criminal justice system

Below is an excerpt of remarks by Stephen Bright, President of the Southern Center for Human Rights at the Aspen Ideas Festival, reported by The Atlantic:

We've taken power from judges and given it to prosecutors, who now decide, with their charging decisions and whether they file repeat-offender papers and all sorts of other things, how long a person is going to serve. So they decide the sentence. The judge is relegated to being a clerk at the end of the process. He signs off on whatever the sentence is. That's got to be shifted back in the other direction, because the prosecutor is an advocate. We theoretically have an adversary system. The worst system is one that masquerades as an adversary system and is not one.
And in many places, people do not receive any real kind of legal representation. If we are going to say this is an adversarial system where we have prosecutors striking hard blows and trying to lock people up or do whatever, you have to have defense lawyers representing those people. First of all, are we even locking up the right people, because we keep letting out people who didn't do what they were convicted of.
And what about the life and background of that person? When it comes to diversion programs, the prosecutor doesn't go interview the defendant, the defense lawyer does that, and then does a social history workup of who is this person? See my article on Sentence Advocacy. This woman, yes, she wrote a fake prescription to get drugs. But she's got a kid with down syndrome. And that's one of three children that she's trying to raise at 25 years of age. So do we really want to put her in the prison system in Georgia for three years?
Or is there another way to deal with this?
And if she's not represented, the prosecutor and the judge will never know about that child. I've twice been called by the department of criminal justice saying we've got people here with IQs of 45, these kids are walking victims, and they're about to be moved into the adult system, and if somebody doesn't do something...
In both of those cases, lawyers plead them guilty and didn't even spend enough time with them to realize they were severely disabled. There are public defenders’ offices that are hopelessly overburdened. And we have places like Alabama where you appoint anybody with a bar card and a pulse and they represent you. The way to make money at that is to move as many people through the system as fast as you can.
To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Is the end of the death penalty near?

Executions are at the lowest level in decades.  In the first half of 2016 there were 14 executions. Those executions occurred in Texas (6), Georgia (5), Alabama (1), Florida (1) and Missouri (1). You can read about each execution here.  
There are seven executions planned for the rest of the year, all in Texas according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Twenty-one executions would be the fewest since 1992 when there were 14 executions and a fraction of the 98 executions carried out in 1999.
To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, June 27, 2016

Arizona halts executions, supply of lethal injection drug dries up

Executions in Arizona have been put on hold after the state ran out of the controversial drug midazolam used in the state's execution protocol, reported Sky News.
Supplies of midazolam ran dry on May  31 and sources of the drug have been blocked after successful lobbying of European pharmaceutical suppliers by death penalty activists.
In May, Pfizer became the latest pharmaceutical giant to close off the last remaining open-market source for lethal injection drugs, following similar actions by more than 20 US and European drug manufacturers.
Although a ruling last month by an Arizona district judge dismissed parts of the lawsuit, other elements of the case remain, and until the dispute is resolved, executions in Arizona remain suspended.
Dale Baich, an attorney representing death row prisoners, said that even if the lawsuit is dismissed, his clients still have claims that Arizona's Department of Corrections Director abused his discretion over the methods and amounts of the drugs used in past executions.
"It's our belief that the unlimited discretion that the director has during the execution process violates the Eighth Amendment," which forbids cruel and unusual punishment," Baich said.
To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pennsylvania to have special legislative session on opioid crisis

Governor Tom Wolf is taking a significant step to deal with what he has called a statewide crisis, Gov. Wolf will call a special session of the legislature this year to address the prescription opioid epidemic, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The session will convene "by the end of the summer, if not early fall," said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), and will focus on finding solutions to an issue rippling across nearly every community.
The announcement came as lawmakers from both parties and the governor gathered in the Capitol rotunda to renew attention on a problem that has grown dramatically in recent years.
Almost two-thirds of the 47,000 overdose deaths nationwide in 2014 were opioid-related, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That year, Pennsylvania recorded about 1,600 overdose deaths from opioid medications and 800 from heroin, the state Coroners Association reported.
To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mangino a guest on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today

Watch my interview on WFMJ-TV Weekend Today about the flurry of U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding immigration, affirmative action and the Fourth Amendment.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE