In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case Miranda v. Arizona and made a ruling that changed the landscape of the criminal justice system forever. That's because, as some of our Washington readers may have already realized, this landmark court case established the Miranda rights, or the four warnings a person is supposed to be given after they are taken into police custody and before questioning. And whether these rights are read or not can sometimes make the difference in a criminal case.
Our Seattle readers can see this illustrated by a case out of California where a three-judge appeals panel is giving a man the chance to seek damages from law enforcement who failed to read him his rights. It was because of this procedural error that the man was convicted twice for the same murder, which should not have happened had the findings of Miranda v. Arizona been followed.
For those who are unfamiliar with the California case, the man was convicted of murder in 1995 because of a statement he gave to police. It turns out though that a deputy neglected to read the man his rights prior to hearing the statement. Per Miranda v. Arizona, any statement or confession that is given prior to hearing the Miranda warning is considered to have been given involuntarily and may therefore be inadmissible in court. But this wasn't the case for this man and he needed to appeal his case before receiving a favorable outcome.
It was recently decided that because the man's rights had been violated, he had grounds for a civil lawsuit that would seek punitive damages against the sheriff's office that had failed to read him the Miranda warning. And even though this case is happening in another state, it's important for our readers to realize that litigation may be necessary for a Washingtonian as well, especially if they were to find themselves facing similar circumstances.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Convicted Murderer Still Has Miranda Rights Case," Tim Hull, April 15, 2014