A rather infamous Michigan case went before the U.S. Supreme Court this week in which the right of a suspect to a lawyer, and that murky territory between apprehension and courtroom is addressed.
The 1986 Michigan v. Jackson ruling held that law enforcement may not question a suspect who has a lawyer unless that lawyer is present. This applied to suspects who consented to speak to the cops even without their lawyer, although they had one or had asked for one.
Usually, based on this, once a suspect asks for a lawyer, all questioning stops. Numerous parties, including U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, asked that this be overturned. The court this week agreed and made it easier to question suspects.
We agree with both the Obama administration and the court on this. A prisoner still maintains his or her right not to speak to authorities. This is a right anyone who has committed a crime knows to exercise. The cops use dirty tricks and will lie in order to get what they want. This is a game – cops v. robbers – in which both parties are often bad news. But the summary is this: If someone commits a crime, they need to be removed from among us and punished. But even then, they can keep quiet if they so choose.
One thing we do note, and for this reason continue to be impressed with Obama on many law enforcement (and other) issues: Check the Associated Press account of the SCOTUS decision and read between the lines at its own regret: “The Obama administration had asked the court to overturn Michigan v. Jackson, disappointing civil rights and civil liberties groups that expected President Barack Obama to reverse the policies of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.”
SCOTUS Mich. v. Jackson