Miranda Wrongs

In Many TV cop shows, the police are always so careful - as the cuffs go on and the suspect is placed in the back seat of the police car, you can hear the officer reading him the Miranda warning: "You have the right to remain silent.... You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning."

It turns out that ain't necessarily so, especially in California. There, according to the Los Angeles Times, several police departments have been training officers to ignore suspects' Miranda-protected requests to see a lawyer, and, in some cases, police have continued interrogations.

Happily, the California Supreme Court Monday made it clear such practices must stop immediately. In a unanimous opinion, the court's liberal and conservative jurists united to send the message that police training to skirt the US Supreme Court's Miranda ruling is "unconscionable."

The court didn't blow a whistle - it blew an air horn, throwing out the murder conviction of a Tulare County man, Kenneth Neal. In that case, police not only denied the suspect's multiple requests to see a lawyer - they locked him up overnight without food, water, or a toilet until he confessed. Such a coerced confession was inadmissible in any way in the state's courts, the justices said. "Such practices tarnish the badge most officers respect and honor," conservative Justice Marvin Baxter wrote.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyear's office says it's doubtful the case will be appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Tulare County prosecutor's office says it will retry Mr. Neal. Both moves would be the right course.

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