Miranda Dictu


Does the case of Oliverio Martinez strike anybody else as one of the least compelling arguments for striking down Miranda warnings you could ever find? Martinez was blinded and paralyzed by five shots from police officers. A police sergeant repeatedly waved off medical treatment for Martinez while interrogating him (without ever reading him his rights, the crux of the case). Martinez was never charged with a crime, and his involvement in the incident consisted of riding a bicycle past an area where cops were questioning a drug suspect, then resisting arrest when they insisted he stop.

"Ay! I am dying! … What are you doing to me?" Martinez is heard screaming on a tape recording of the persistent interrogation by police Sgt. Ben Chavez in Oxnard, an agricultural city of 182,000 about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

"If you are going to die, tell me what happened," the officer said.

Arguments for Miranda generally turn on the Fifth and Sixth Amendment guarantees against self-incrimination and for right to counsel. But this case seems to have the added weakness of violating the Eigth Amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Then again, maybe C&U punishment is allowed in cases where the suspect hasn't even committed a fucking crime!

The Bush administration continues its limited-government, individual rights-centric approach to liberty by supporting the Oxnard PD in its appeal of the case, hoping that this will make questioning of terrorism suspects easier. I'd prefer they devote some energy to those wacky Miranda mistranslations that split the sides of authorities all over this nation.