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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
US Supreme Court dilutes Miranda rights

In a pathbreaking judgment that is likely to have far reaching effect, the Supreme Court of the United States diluted Miranda rights in application when it ruled that it was on the detainee to clearly and unambiguously invoke the Miranda rights, and a failure to do so could allow the authorities to use what he discloses during the interrogation against him in a court of law.

So far the position of law as reiterated by the Supreme Court over and over again was that the onus was on the Government to show that the prisoner had understood his rights and had waived the same "knowingly and intelligently". However, in the 5-4 ruling pronounced on June 1, 2010, the Supreme Court held that it was upon the prisoner to invoke Miranda rights, failing which the words that he later utters can be used to obtain a conviction. As per the ruling the police are "not required to obtain a waiver" of the "right to remain silent before interrogating" the prisoner.

In the case before the Supreme Court, Michigan police had already read Miranda rights to the suspect, Van Thompkinds, who said that he had understood but did not expressly state he either wanted the interrogation to stop or that he wished to speak to a lawyer. He simply said wordlessly for nearly two hours and 45 minutes after which he finally responded in affirmative to the question as to whether or not he prayed to God to forgive him for shooting the boy down. He simply said 'yes' and looked away and did not sign a confession and also refused to speak any further. However, largely on the basis of the brief 'yes' he was convicted of first-degree murder.

The conviction was trashed by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that since the conviction was secured through an incriminating answer, it stood in violation of the prisoner 's right against self-incrimination under the Miranda decision.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and reversed the ruling reinstating the conviction. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said, "A suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings, and has not invoked his Miranda rights, waives the right to remain silent by making an uncoerced statement to the police." Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., agreed.

However, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, speaking for the four dissenting justices assailed the ruling saying that it "marks a substantial retreat from the protections against compelled selfincrimination that Miranda v. Arizona has long provided". She was joined by Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

The majority judgment is very much in line with the position that the Obama administration and US Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, take with respect to the right of the detainees. Kagan, in her brief filed in support of Michigan prosecutors, said that "the Government need not prove that a suspect expressly waived his rights". And "if a suspect knows and understands his Miranda rights," nothing bars the prosecutors from using whatever he or she says against him or her in court.

Ohio Supreme Court strikes down part of sexoffender law

The Ohio Supreme Court set aside part of Ohio's 2007 sex-offender law holding it to be in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. The enactment in question was the Adam Walsh Act and the question of law settled pertained to creation of new categories under the Act, which prescribed stricter post-release measures including registration and community notifications.

Under the old law, the court decided which sex offender was dangerous enough to be imposed with additional post-release restrictions, and it was left solely upon the court to classify the sex offenders in that respect. The new law sought to re-classify the sex offenders already convicted.

The old Megan's Law placed sex offenders into three categories - sexually oriented offenders, habitual sex offenders and sexual predators. All sex offenders were required by the law to register with their county sheriff, and depending upon the classification they were also required to register each year from 10 years to life.

The sheriff, on his part, was required to notify all residents of the area about the presence of a sexual predator or habitual sex offender in the vicinity. The sheriff was also required to declare the name, address and conviction of such offender.

The 2007 Adam Welsh law provided for three levels. The Tier 1 offenders had to register each year for 15 years. The Tier 2 ones had to report twice a year for 25 years, whereas the Tier 3 offenders had to register every 90 days for life. The requirement of community notification was attached to Tier 3 offenders only. This re-classification fell foul with the Supreme Court and was consequently struck down by a 6-1 ruling.

The Court was of the opinion that by mandating that the offenders found guilty of certain specific crimes be automatically placed in one of the three tiers, the judgment of the trial courts stood altered in the manner only appellate courts could alter. Therefore, the law contravened the doctrine of separation of powers, and was for that reason unconstitutional

. The Court held that the law "impermissibly instruct the executive branch to review past decisions of the judicial branch and thereby violate the separation-ofpowers doctrine."

Justice Robert R. Cupp dissented holding that the re-classification did not interfere with the decisions of the trial courts and was, therefore, not unconstitutional.

US Supreme Court allows suit against former Somali PM

The Supreme Court cleared the way for Somali torture victims to sue their former Prime Minister and other government officials for the sufferings they underwent. The Court ruled that the federal does not automatically bar law suits against ex-officials of foreign governments over abuse of power.

The case involved a claim of immunity by former Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Samantar under Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. The Supreme Court, in a 9-0 ruling, rejected the claim and held that enactment does not protect former officials of foreign State against law suits in American courts.

Samantar served under the tyrannous regime of President Mohamed Siad Barre between 1980 and 1990 as Vice President, Defense Minister and Prime Minister.


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