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Supreme Court Reinforces Miranda, Strikes Down California Blanket Primaries

Aired June 26, 2000 - 10:52 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: While we were watching and listening to the events at the White House and also the events taking place at 10 Downing Street in London, the Supreme Court had two of its own announcements to make.

Charles Bierbauer is standing by now live outside the court with two decisions announced about 51 minutes ago.

Charles, what do we know?

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that within the hour, and indeed, for several decades, Miranda rights, the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney when being questioned by law enforcement officials, are a constitutionally based law of the land. And that's what the justices said this morning in a case involving a Virginia bank robbery.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Anything you say can be used as evidence against you.

BIERBAUER (voice-over): Perhaps even if no one advised you of your rights, a federal appeals court ruled what Charles Dickerson told police before they read him his rights could be used in court, where he was charged in a 1997 Virginia bank robbery. A little used law, section 3501, says any confession, even without Miranda warnings, is admissible if it is voluntarily given.

JAMES HUNDLEY, ATTY. FOR DICKERSON: The situation in Mr. Dickerson's case is very uncommon, where somebody would actually be arrested, taken to a police station, put in an interrogation room and not given their Miranda rights, that is very unusual in this day and age.

BIERBAUER: Unusual because since the Supreme Court's 1966 ruling, that Ernesto Miranda had not been read his rights when charged with kidnap and rape, police have been under public scrutiny to uphold this law.

WILLIAM BRATTON, FMR. N.Y. POLICE COMMISSIONER: This is a management tool to control police behavior, control police activity, it's not broken, why fix it? BIERBAUER: Others see Miranda as a set of handcuffs.

PAUL CASSELL, UNIV. OF UTAH LAW SCHOOL: It's really operated to benefit guilty criminals, it doesn't do very much for innocent suspects who are swept into the system.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BIERBAUER: Indeed, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote the opinion for the seven justices in the majority, said the disadvantage is that there are statements that may have to be excluded and that sometimes the guilty may go free. But the chief justice also said that it is a constitutional decision, it cannot be overruled by Congress, and the Supreme Court chooses not to overrule itself in the decisions it had made more than 30 years ago -- Bill.

HEMMER: Charles, between today and Wednesday, we expect decisions on eight different cases, there are a few more to talk about. What's at the forefront now?

BIERBAUER: Well, let me mention quickly two other cases: one is the California blanket primary. You may remember when Californians went to the polls there was massive amount of crossover voting, Democrats voting for Republicans, Republicans voting for Democrats, and what the court ruled today is that that California blanket primary, which was brought about by proposition 198, is unconstitutional; that it gives the state too much authority to impose upon the parties their own process of choosing their candidates and that that should not be the case. So that has been thrown out.

Also a case in New Jersey involving hate crime sentencing for a man who fired shots at his black neighbor's house and was then sentenced to 12 years in prison under an enhanced sentencing provided by the state of New Jersey under hate crimes. The problem here is that this sentence was handed out by a judge, the justices ruled here that this is a matter that must be decided by a jury, not by a judge, and so that sets some parameters with regard to hate crime legislation -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, coming to the end of that summer session, we'll be in touch at midweek, Charles, thank you.

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