Saturday, May 13, 2006

'An Absolute Right'

In a Washington Times article today about the bloody, unfortunate killing of one Fairfax County police officer and the serious wounding of another in a shoot-out with an 18-year-old last week, longtime Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan, Jr., was quoted as saying:

"That's America. You have an absolute, unqualified constitutional right not to talk to police if you don't want to."
This quotation should be emblazoned in every high school civics textbook. We have to remember, the Bill of Rights is for everyone, not just those who were smart enought to be paying attention in class.

No one should ever submit to interrogation by law enforcement officials without first insisting that an attorney be present, and no one should ever say a word until that attorney arrives. When the police read a suspect his Miranda rights, they are not kidding when they repeat "Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law."

Young Alan Newsom and his parents learned that at their peril, since he was convicted of a serious crime solely on the basis of a statement he made to police without an attorney present. As reported last week in The Hook,
Attorney Bill Hicks has insisted his 15-year-old client was convicted solely on his statement to police, which took place without legal counsel or his parents, an interrogation so stressful that the boy "would have confessed to the Kennedy assassination," his father says.
The Fourth and Fifth Amendments are there for the protection of all of us, guilty and innocent alike. The Founding Fathers did not put them in the Constitution for cosmetic reasons. The Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney knows this; I'm not so sure about prosecutors and ex-prosecutors elsewhere in the state.


Tim said...

One thing your post doesn't make quite clear, Rick, is that the Washington Times article is not about the shoot-out or the teenage killer, but about his parents' subsequent refusal to speak to police.

Anonymous said...

I can understand after the shock of something like this and the way that "the public" always tries to villify the parents of the shooter, that they would just hire an attorney to speak for them.

Personally, I can't imagine after the family dog shooting, continuing to keep guns, and so many of them, in the house. Obviously the way they were "secured" was not enough.

My heart goes out to their family as well as to the officers and their families. Mental illness is a problem that we are far behind in treating humanely and taking care of before there are such dreadful consequences for everyone.