Supreme Court Moves to Center in Ruling on Miranda Rights Decision Affirms Federal Court's Ability to Protect Suspects' Rights

Article excerpt

THE Supreme Court this week reasserted the importance of reading suspects their rights before obtaining confessions.

The Wednesday decision in a double-murder case was a step back toward the middle ground by a court that had sharply curtailed the rights of accused criminals during the last two decades. It follows a strongly worded decision last year that federal officials had illegally entrapped a Nebraska man when they lured him into ordering child pornography in the mail.

The case decided Wednesday - which reaffirms the right of federal judges to review state court rulings in cases involving suspects' rights - was one of the most closely watched cases of the court session. If the 5-4 decision had gone the other way, it would have substantially withdrawn the federal courts from protecting the constitutional bar against coerced confessions.

"There are signs over the last two years that the court has, if not moved back, at least stopped the swing to the right" on criminal law, says law Prof. Paul Marcus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

"It moves the marker back a bit on Miranda," says William Greenhalgh, a Georgetown University law professor. Miranda v. Arizona was the famous 1966 Supreme Court decision which held that police must read criminal suspects their constitutional rights as they are being arrested. …