Archive for April, 2009

A New Miranda Warning?

Posted in Politics on April 27th, 2009

Most if not all people in America are familiar with the Miranda Warning aka Miranda Rights that are required to be given by police to criminal suspects in police custody, or in a “custodial situation,” before they are asked guilt-seeking questions relating to the commission of a crime. No incriminating statement by a suspect can, under law, constitute admissible evidence unless the suspect was advised of his or her “Miranda rights” and made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of those rights.

These Miranda warnings were mandated as a result of the June 13, 1966 United States Supreme Court decision – Miranda v. Arizona – as a means of protecting a criminal suspect’s 5th Amendment right to avoid coercive self-incrimination.

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says may be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him or her.

While the SCOTUS did not specify the exact wording that must used by law enforcement, all of the points above must be included substantively in the warning given to anyone before any sort of interrogation – beyond that of biographical information such as name, date of birth, and address (Stop-And-Identify laws) – may commence. The typical warning is as follows:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights?

That was then, and it is still that way now, but President’s Obama’s administration would like that not to be the future, and they’re willing to use the weight of the US Justice Department to attempt to do so.

The Obama administration, claiming that the right to have an attorney present during questioning “serves no real purpose” and offers only “meager benefits,” wants to overturn the previous SCOTUS rulings and limit the requirement that police do not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or who has asked for one unless the attorney is present.

From Associated Press (A) via The Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule a 23 year-old decision that stopped police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer is present, the latest stance that has disappointed civil rights and civil liberties groups.

While President Barack Obama has reversed many policies of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, the defendants’ rights case is another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights.

Since taking office, Obama has drawn criticism for backing the continued imprisonment of enemy combatants in Afghanistan without trial, invoking the “state secrets” privilege to avoid releasing information in lawsuits and limiting the rights of prisoners to test genetic evidence used to convict them.

The case at issue is Michigan v. Jackson, in which the Supreme Court said in 1986 that police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one unless the attorney is present. The decision applies even to defendants who agree to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.

Anything police learn through such questioning may not be used against the defendant at trial. The opinion was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the only current justice who was on the court at the time.

The justices could decide as early as Friday whether they want to hear arguments on the issue as they wrestle with an ongoing case from Louisiana that involves police questioning of an indigent defendant that led to a murder confession and a death sentence.

Seeking to assure that the right to counsel is not lost during police interrogation, the Court ruled in Jackson that, once an accused has claimed that right in court, any waiver of that right during police questioning would not be valid unless the individual initiated communication with the officers. Overturning Michigan v. Jackson would be a huge mistake and a crime against American freedoms.

So will they create a new Miranda warning? One that more accurately reflects the strictly limited and curtailed rights of suspects and defendants in police custody?

Would anyone care to estimate – or even hazard a guess – what the hue and cry over this would have been if President Bush, had tried this? The Liberals’ media would have decried his assault on civil liberties from coast to coast. The ACLU and other groups would have staged protests in every American city, which – unlike the Tax Day tea Parties – would have been extensively and positively covered by what passes for journalists these days. They would have called President Bush a Nazi fascist for denying legal counsel to people under police interrogation.

But with President Obama in the White House, the American media is conspicuously silent on the matter. The only mainstream media outlet carrying the story was The Telegraph which is a British newspaper!

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Issues & Outages

Posted in Announcements on April 24th, 2009

jonolanIssues & Outages

I’m afraid that Reflections From A Murky Pond suffered a severe software problem. This resulted in the loss of some posts and comments.

Thank you all for your patience, and my apologies for any inconvenience.

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A Moral Atheist

Posted in Ethics & Morality, Philosophy, Religion on April 24th, 2009

Atom of Atheism - Unofficial Icon of AtheismIs there such a thing as a moral Atheist? The short answer is no, there truly isn’t nor can there be a truly moral Atheist. The phrase “Moral Atheist” is inherently wrong and impossible at its core.

The term is incorrect, but – despite the rantings of some theist “hardliners” – it is not an oxymoron. It is not an inherently self-contradictory term.

“Moral Atheist” is not linguistically similar to “Jumbo Shrimp,” “Unbiased Opinion,” “Idiot Savant,” or “Civil War.” It would require that Atheists be inherently immoral – a direct contradiction – for the phrase “Moral Atheist” to be an oxymoron. Such is not categorically the case with Atheists.

Atheists can be quite ethical; their behaviors may even fall into line with those set forth by moral codes. But such things do not make the Atheist a moral individual. Ethics stem from within the individual and, lacking any religion or belief in a higher authority than Man, Atheists lack the capacity for morality though at times their actions and beliefs can, and very often do, coincide with those of moral people. Any intersection between Atheists’ ethics and morality is largely either coincidental or based upon purely pragmatic concerns.

Please note that the above statement does not hold true for Buddhists. They have faith in a divine cosmos with Right and Wrong, but do not believe in a manifest Divine Presence.

Aside from the Buddhists though, if you show me an Atheist is believes in Right & Wrong beyond personal preference or cultural dictates, I’ll show you a person who – in the stillness of the night with no sounds save the beating of their pulse into their pillow – is an Agnostic. 😉

Atheists can only derive sanction or prohibition for their actions from within themselves and/or from the dictates of the society and culture that they live within. That – despite the ranting of Atheist and Anti-Theist “hardliners” – is not morality, not in any true or absolute sense of the word.

Read the rest of this entry »

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