The Supreme Court of the United States, now on recess until February 23, has agreed to clarify how long a suspected criminal's request for a lawyer during police interrogation should be valid.
The high court on Monday said it will consider allowing prosecutors in Maryland to use a confession from convicted child molester Michael Shatzer that he sexually abused his son.
Shatzer was imprisoned at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown for child sexual abuse in 2003 when police started investigating allegations concerning his son. Shatzer requested an attorney and the investigation was soon dropped.
Three years later, the boy was old enough to offer details. According to court documents, when police questioned Shatzer again about the case, he was advised of his rights and signed a form waiving them before confessing.
After Shatzer was charged, he filed a motion to suppress his statements, arguing that he had asked for an attorney in the case before. A lower court said the confession could be used, but the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed with Shatzer and threw out the confession. That is what Miranda's impact has been.
Turn to Broward. Gorman Roberts' manslaughter conviction was overturned because of a single word. Roberts was convicted of pushing 5-year-old Jordan Payne in February 2002 into a Pompano Beach canal, where he drowned. But his conviction and prison sentence were thrown out in May 2004 when an appeals court ruled the Miranda rights warning he got from Broward Sheriff's Office investigators was incomplete.
The warning, which said suspects "have the right to talk with a lawyer and have a lawyer present before any questioning," failed to spell out that defendants also had the right to an attorney "during" police interrogation as well. It was corrected in November 2002. Score that one for the 'Commander,' the late Ellis Rubin. He noted the flaw and ran with it all the way to the appeals courts. Call it the 'Do Not Screw' with Miranda rule.
Since then, dozens of other Broward County cases — including murders, robberies and illegal drugs — have been affected because of the faulty Miranda warnings carelessly employed by cavalier police departments, who on their own, changed the structure and wording. Convictions have been reversed in some, defendant statements suppressed in others. Just two years ago, 2007, in a FLPD drug trafficking case, Sid Fleischmann and I discovered the improper form inadvertently presented to defendants. Suppression City.
No prediction on what the Supreme Court will rule on this Maryland case, but it would be nice, it would be real nice if you were able to go into a criminal courtrooms and have judges that knew of these monumentally important rulings and decisions, beforehand, and not have to explain the alphabet to them all over again. I mean, they are criminal judges, right? They should know the four corners of Miranda, and I do not mean Carmen.