Our Wise Latina Overruled!

June 2nd, 2010 · 4 Comments

The following is a blog post by Pablo Manriquez in response to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling.

This is from the AP:

For Justice Sotomayor, deciding to make suspects speak to have the right to remain silent was a step too far. Sotomayor, the court’s newest member, wrote a strongly worded dissent for the court’s liberals, saying the majority’s decision “turns Miranda upside down.”

“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent – which counter-intuitively requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”

She was joined in her dissent by Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

My immediate reaction to the ruling was that it will be highly consequential to suspects unaware of their inalienable rights before the law; and that the decision is particularly consequential to suspects who don’t speak ‘American’ or understand our American language.

“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent…”

There is nothing inherently unambiguous about my father’s accent when he speaks ‘American’. He is an American citizen, yet his accent remains soaked in phonetics built a world away in a Chilean slum several lifetimes ago. Were he a suspect, he’d need only speak to risk being conveniently misunderstood confessing.

But the Supreme Court has ruled. In my opinion, the ruling is again highly misguided. Nevertheless, I wonder about the reason(s) Sotomayor dissented. Could it be that Sotomayor’s dissent was a watchdog move, our wise Latina looking out for 2009s most legally-mangled American demographic? Or was it just good old-fashioned sound jurisprudence?

Regrettably, our wise Latina was overruled by her Supreme Court colleagues. That said, Mr. James Duane is a professor at Regent Law School and a former defense attorney. Here Professor Duane cites Justice Robert Jackson saying, “Any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to the police under any circumstances.”

Then Duane backtracks, excepting two phrases you can say to a cop, but only these two phrases and never any other:

  1. “I do not consent to any searches.”
  2. “I have nothing to say.”

Legally, anything else you say cannot help you and absolutely can be used against you in a court of law, according to Professor Duane. Since watching Duane’s lecture for the first time two years ago, the only two phrases I’ve said to cops are the above. The last time, a cop once went to frisk me in front of my own home and I unambiguously told him, “I do not consent to any searches.” He stopped and said, “Why not? What do you have on you? Drugs? Guns? A knife?…”

“I have nothing to say.” At all. Period. Ever. The freedom of speech is as American as the right to remain silent.

Tags: Crime · Supreme Court

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michaelr // Jun 3, 2010 at 11:03 am

    While this U.S. Supreme Court (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) continues to expand the rights and privileges of Corporate America, this decision altering the Miranda process should come as no surprise. The so-called rule of law rarely applies to citizens of color anyway. Unless you have substantial income and wealth to afford competent legal representation, and can proceed through that whole U.S. legal process that is further complicated by the so-called jury of your peers, all of this verbal jousting on what law-enforcement officers can say to you and not say to you is moot. Since law-enforcement officers in Southern California rarely advise you of any constitutional rights on their own, this will not provide any legal protection to citizens of color who are always accused of everything under the sun. In other words, our lot has not changed…even in regards to how we will be processed through the U.S. legal system.

  • 2 theKaiser // Jun 3, 2010 at 11:16 am


  • 3 El Cholo // Jun 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

    It’s funny how the other half of the U.S. Supreme Court believes that law-enforcement officers in Southern California actually advise you of your rights when arresting you. They must think the law is applied to all U.S. citizens equally. What world do they live in?

  • 4 Pablo // Jun 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    re: Michaelr & El Cholo
    It seems we Latinos need to get richer, quicker…

Leave a Comment