I just cannot be made to understand this.
Here’s something you might not have known:
Before a person who is a suspect in a criminal investigation can give a statement to the police, the police have to give read that person their Miranda rights.
Okay, you might have already known that. What you might not have known, however, is that it is very very common for the police to “read someone their Miranda rights” in the form of a sheet of paper that says “these are your rights sign here to waive them and we can keep talking to you.”
Police officer: Now, this is just a technicality, but I need you to sign this piece of paper before we can keep talking. Suspect: [signs paper]Just like that, Miranda is “waived” and the person’s statements can and will be used against them in a court of law, and there is no attorney there to, you know, tell them to shut the f up and stop feeding the police information because the police are trying to put your ass in jail.
What? You say you knew that too? Well, here’s the kicker:
Courts have upheld the ability to waive Miranda in kids as young as nine. Now I don’t know about you, but when I was nine, I:
- Broke my arm falling off a swingset
- Was really really fond of a stuffed pig I named “Mr. Piggums”
- Believed that the principal of my elementary school would somehow be able to tell if I cheated on my spelling test. She would just know.
- Was totally scandalized when Mallory’s friend on Family Ties got pregnant and wouldn’t tell her mother.
I’m pretty sure that when I was nine, I did not have the presence of mind, poise, or understanding of the legal system to really get what “waiving Miranda” was all about. I’m pretty sure that if a police officer told me that something was “just a technicality,” and that I “needed” to sign something, I would sign it no matter what. And I was a pretty astute nine-year-old.
You might guess that this is something that has come up in the clinic where I work, and you would be right. Our client, who is 14, was told that he “needed to sign and it was just a technicality,” before he told the police about how his friend had gotten into a fight with some gangbangers.
That statement is the only thing the police have to connect our client to this incident. And now our client is charged with first degree murder.