MIRANDA Rights Don't Make Confessions OK. (Checklist for Forensic Psychiatrists)

Article excerpt

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. -- Just because police have read a suspect his Miranda rights doesn't mean that the resulting confession is voluntary. The admissibility of confessions can be challenged for any number of reasons, Dr. Kenneth J. Weiss said at he annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

"Confessions must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary," said Dr. Weiss, medical director of Delaware Valley Research Associates, Conshohocken, Pa. "Therefore, any psychiatric factors bearing on these elements can be a basis for suppressing the confession."

He has developed a checklist of factors commonly associated with reliability issues. This checklist neatly spells our MIRANDA, forming a mnemonic device aimed at helping forensic psychiatrists recall the valid reasons for challenging confessions:

* M stands for mental illness. Command hallucinations In a schizophrenic do not by themselves render a confession invalid. But delusional guilt can very well form a basis for suppressing a confession. Some people with mania may be so overwhelmed by feelings of grandiosity and invulnerability as to be out of touch with the implication of their loss of rights. Negative symptoms in schizophren a, particularly conceptional disorganization, can prevent someone from truly understanding the concept of confession. This, however, can be difficult to explain to judges. Dr. Weiss said.

* I stands for intoxication. When someone's tongue is loosened because of an intoxicant such as alcohol, cocaine, or MDMA (Ecstasy), an inherent unreliability exists that may be taken advantage of by an astute detective. It's rare for police to measure blood alcohol content or to conduct toxicology screens in these cases. Therefore, to challenge a confession on this basis, the psychiatrist may have to examine videotapes or audiotapes of the interrogation. …