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Edwards Isn't Forever

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An editorial in today's Los Angeles Times comments, "[w]e'd prefer a longer break" than the 14-day "break in custody" rule established by last week's Supreme Court decision in Maryland v. Shatzer.  While the editorial commends the Court for drawing a bright line rule that police may reinterrogate a suspect 14 days after the suspect's first interrogation, it also finds it disturbing that between Shatzer's first interrogation in 2003, and his second in 2006, Shatzer remained in prison.  The editorial comments that "[i]mprisonment is not 'normal life,'" and takes issue with the Court's conclusion that Shatzer, who had remained in prison, had returned to "normal life" for some time before the second interrogation.  The editorial writes, "[t]he court would have been truer to Miranda if it had recognized that, in this case, there was no gap in custody."

The problem with this argument is that Shatzer didn't really address Miranda, it addressed Edwards v. Arizona, and whether there could be an exception to Edwards' rule that once a suspect invokes his right to counsel police cannot reinterrogate the suspect unless he initiates further communication.  Edwards was intended to prevent police from holding suspects in jail and using coercive measures to badger them into giving confessions. 

Last week's decision in Shatzer acknowledged that badgering and police coercion are far less likely when a suspect has been released from the interrogation room "and returned to his normal life for some time before the later reinterrogation."  The decision acknowledged that when a suspect has been released and returns to his daily routines "there is little reason to think that [a suspect's] change of heart regarding interrogation without counsel has been coerced."  The suspect in Edwards had not been released, and had been held overnight and questioned until he confessed.  Edwards sought to reinforce Miranda by ending this type of practice, and the exception to Edwards recognized in Shatzer does not undermine the Fifth Amendment's protection from compelled self-incrimination.  Miranda warnings must be read to suspects and interrogation cannot continue until a suspect waives his rights.  Shatzer simply recognized that a suspect could have a "change of heart" and might voluntarily answer police questions 14 days after his first interrogation.  

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A liberal elitist who believes that criminal behavior is the product of government oppression would also believe that a life of incarceration is not normal.

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