Another day, or these days an hour and there’s another freakout over a Supreme Court ruling. Now it’s Vega v. Tekoh. The case involved a paramedic accused of assaulting a patient. According to the deputy, Vega, the paramedic, Tekoh, came forward to admit his guilt, according to the paramedic, he was intimidated into doing so. The confession was not preceded by a Miranda warning. Since Vega’s name is up there, the case, as you can guess, involved the deputy being sued.
The case then became a proxy for a debate over Miranda and the decision into a freakout about the Supreme Court “taking away a constitutional right.”
Miranda was no more of a constitutional right than Roe v. Wade. It had a slightly better basis as an invented right, but not by that much.
In 1963, the year that Lois Ann Jameson was walking home, there had been 222 rapes. Ten years later, that number would stand at 637. Today there are over 2,000 rapes a year in Phoenix; ten times as many. But one of those rapes would be hers. And it would lead to a new standard of protection for murderers and rapists.
Ernesto Miranda wasn’t famous yet. The days when he would be selling autographed Miranda warning cards were still ahead of him. For now he was only another son of Mexican immigrants, a tattooed felon working temporary jobs and a rapist on the prowl.
Miranda abducted the girl, drove her out to the desert and raped her. He was arrested, questioned and confessed to the crime. The rest should have been straightforward except that no one had told him that he was entitled to a lawyer. The head of the Phoenix office of the ACLU stepped in and the Miranda warning was born.
Miranda v. Arizona was part of a string of decisions by the Warren Court that had begun the year of Lois Ann Jameson’s rape. The decisions invented rights which not only obligated taxpayers to provide accused criminals with lawyers, but also made it impossible to question a suspect without his lawyer.
In the case of Lois Ann’s rapist, Justice Earl Warren went beyond inventing the right to a government lawyer, to invent the rapist’s right to be told of a right to a government lawyer.
Warren inverted the Fifth Amendment to claim that the confession of a criminal who had not been told that he did not have to incriminate himself was a violation of the ban on self-incrimination. And he held that it should be assumed that all criminals did not know that they did not have to confess.
Miranda’s premise, that criminals don’t know they have a right not to incriminate themselves unless they’re told about it ahead of time (or watch cop shows) and that therefore their confessions somehow violate the Fifth Amendment is absurd nonsense. If Tekoh were actually intimidated into confessing, that can be a case of being “compelled”, but the presence or lack of a Miranda warning is a meaningless fetish.
Justice Alito’s ruling correctly notes that a Miranda warning is not the same thing as the Fifth Amendment.
“Miranda did not hold that a violation of the rules it established necessarily constitute a Fifth Amendment violation, and it is difficult to see how it could have held otherwise,” the ruling notes. “At no point in the opinion did the Court state that a violation of its new rules constituted a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. Instead, it claimed only that those rules were needed to safeguard that right during custodial interrogation.”
“In accordance with this understanding of the nature of the rules it imposed, the Miranda Court stated quite clearly that the Constitution did not itself require “adherence to any particular solution for the inherent compulsions of the interrogation process” and that its decision “in no way create[d] a constitutional straitjacket.” Ibid. The opinion added that its new rules might not be needed if Congress or the States adopted “other procedures which are at least as effective.”
Compare this to the freakout over Vega v. Tekoh from the usual sources.
“The Supreme Court took the first steps toward overruling Miranda v. Arizona on Thursday, declaring that suspects have no constitutional right to receive the famed Miranda warnings when they’re taken into custody. Its 6–3 decision in Vega v. Tekoh ensures that many suspects who are denied these warnings will have no legal recourse, even if they are wrongly convicted. Justice Sam Alito’s opinion for the court lays the groundwork for a more direct assault on Miranda itself, barely concealing the conservative majority’s contempt for the decision,” Mark Joseph Stern fulminates at Slate.
An assault on what? Miranda is informational. Alito establishes that it was never a constitutional right, nor was it meant to be treated as one. Mistaking the paper for the principles is supposed to be an originalist fallacy, yet with Miranda, it’s lefties who are guilty of it.
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