Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SCOTUS Rulling Affects Police Interrogation

A new Supreme Court ruling will likely mean some changes to police interrogation procedures.
By a 5-4 vote, the conservative majority overruled a 23-year-old Supreme Court decision that barred the police from initiating questioning after a defendant asserted the right to an attorney at an arraignment or similar proceeding.

The 1986 decision held that once a defendant invoked the right to counsel, only the suspect, and not the police, can initiate the contact.

The ruling was the latest in a recent string by conservative justices expanding the power of police to question suspects, but it does not change the landmark 1966 ruling barring the police from questioning a suspect who invoked the right to remain silent or have a lawyer present.

The decision was a defeat for Jesse Jay Montejo, a Louisiana death row inmate. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a dry-cleaning operator during a robbery in 2002.

He initially waived his right to a lawyer and was questioned by the police. He told several conflicting stories. Several days later, he appeared in court for a preliminary hearing and a local judge appointed a lawyer to represent Montejo, who could not afford an attorney.

Later that day, police investigators approached Montejo in prison and he again waived his right to a lawyer.

But Montejo later claimed the police had violated his constitutional right to counsel by interrogating him without his lawyer being present and pressuring him to write a letter confessing and apologizing to the victim's wife. That letter was later introduced as evidence against him at his trial. Source: Yahoo News

Not likely to mean big changes, but changes nevertheless.

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