In a stunning decision to many in the criminal defense bar, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court recently ruled that police officers are not required to give a criminal suspect his Miranda warnings if he has had the opportunity to consult with his attorney and that lawyer is present during police questioning. In a 4-3 decision in the case of Commonwealth v. Wally Jacques Simon, the Massachusetts Supreme Court's majority held that a criminal suspect's protections on the issue of Miranda warnings are safeguarded if the lawyer is present and can stop questioning at any time. Unbelievable...
The case involved a Winchester, Massachusetts, home invasion that led to one man being murdered, and his brother being seriously wounded. The brother was able to call 911 and give a description of the alleged perpetrator. After obtaining the man's identity and a few days after the murder, Massachusetts State Police Officers located and followed the criminal suspect to a parking lot in Medford, which ended up being outside his attorney's office. The defendant was allowed to go into his attorney's office and speak with him, and was then questioned by police, with his attorney present, in the lawyer's conference room.
In his Interlocutory Appeal, the defendant claimed that, because the police never provided him with his Miranda Warnings, any statements he made should be suppressed or excluded from the criminal trial against him. In ruling that the police were not required to specifically provide the criminal defendant with his Miranda Warnings prior to being questioned in this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that Miranda was not necessary because the defendant had an opportunity to consult with his attorney before questioning, and the attorney was present during the questioning.
In reaching its decision, the Court relied on language in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona, which stated that there can be "other fully effective means...to inform accused persons of their right of silence and to assure a continuous opportunity to exercise it."
The Massachusetts Supreme Court's decision in this case inexplicably now puts the burden on the criminal defendant because it reasoned that the presence of an attorney during interrogation and the opportunity to consult with his lawyer beforehand is an adequate protective device necessary to make the process of police interrogation conform to the dictates of the privilege. In other words, with a lawyer is present, the attorney can detect and describe even the most subtle coercive or suggestive influences, and thereby terminate the interrogation.
Although the Court emphasized that there are many other jurisdictions around the country that have concluded that Miranda warnings are not necessary when an attorney is present during questioning and that criminal suspect has had an opportunity to consult with him, Massachusetts has historically and proudly offered greater Constitutional protections under Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights than does the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
There are so many reasons why the Massachusetts Supreme Court made the wrong decision in this case and opened up a "Pandora's Box" for future Constitutional violations on the issue of Miranda warnings...
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