Sunday, May 9, 2010

Forget Miranda! Use Common Sense!

In the wake of the Times Square bomb attempt, it is important to remember the purpose of the Supreme Court’s Miranda ruling which is to prevent some poor schnook from making statements incriminating himself inadvertently. By administering Miranda warnings, police are free to use a suspect’s statements against him in a subsequent criminal proceeding. This provides an incentive for police to administer such warnings. It is important to remember, however, that there is no requirement that police administer such warnings in every case. Police are free not to administer such warnings if they have no need to use a suspect’s statements against him in a subsequent criminal proceeding.

In the case of the Times Square bomber, the police had his car, the witness who sold him the car, all manor of physical evidence found in the car and his home, and evidence of intent to flee the country all before he was ever placed in custody. In the case of the Christmas Day bomber, police arrested him with bomb elements burning in his underwear and a plane full of people who witnessed him trying to explode a bomb. In both cases, there is no need for additional statements to convict these guys. Consequently, it is MUCH more important that we learn of their co-conspirators in these plots both inside and outside the U.S. in order to prevent future attacks rather than pile on additional evidence in the zeal to obtain a better criminal case.

The Attorney General suggested we need new laws for administering Miranda warnings. Hardly. We need the Attorney General and his Justice Department to exercise some common sense. Is it more important to advise a terror suspect to shut up and consult a lawyer in the hope of removing one would-be terrorist from the streets, especially when the other evidence against him is overwhelming, or is it more important that we talk to him under those circumstances to try and extract as much actionable intelligence as possible to prevent future attacks? What if one of these guys had a partner who got away? Wouldn’t it be nice to know who the partner was so he did not strike us too?

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