10 Chap. L. Rev. 631 (No PDF)
Chapman Law Review
MIRANDA WARNINGS, TORTURE, THE RIGHT TO COUNSEL AND THE WAR ON TERROR
Copyright (c) 2007 Chapman Law Review; M. Katherine B. Darmer
Forty years after the Miranda decision, the crimes that rivet the nation are different than those that consumed the public in 1966. September 11 is in many ways a dividing line. Before September 11, we believed torture was unthinkable; now we do not. Before September 11, we debated whether Miranda made sense from the perspective of law enforcement; now, the notion that terror suspects would be given Miranda warnings seems almost quaint. It is plain that the Bush Administration is treating the vast majority of terror suspects far outside the realm of ordinary law enforcement, where the protections of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments are uncertain at best.
The Miranda decision was, in many ways, very much the product of its time. Decided in the same era as Brown v. Board of Education, it was arguably motivated, in large part, by a desire to achieve greater equality in the criminal justice system, and to provide greater access to justice to the most disadvantaged members of society. Miranda was a controversial decision when it was decided, and it remained controversial during the subsequent eras of the Burger and Rehnquist Courts. Indeed, those Courts chipped away at Miranda until the decision became a mere remnant of its former self. To the extent that the Miranda Court meant to fundamentally change the nature of police interrogation and significantly alter the dynamics of the stationhouse, that grand vision “soared only on the pages of the majority opinion, and foundered in the workaday world of competing considerations, such as crime control.” For example, in New York v. Quarles, the Court held that a police officer did not violate the Fifth Amendment by asking an unwarned suspect simply about the location of a gun. The Court held that “concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Miranda.”
I have argued previously that the “public safety” doctrine should be expanded in the terrorism context, as terrorism cases present a much more compelling need for addressing public safety than does the discovery of a gun in a supermarket. I have also advocated that courts should adopt a “foreign interrogation” exception to Miranda in the terrorism context. This article picks up on those themes and argues even more broadly for exceptions to Miranda in the terrorism context. This position is anchored in the view that Miranda is, in fact, a “prophylactic rule” which “sweeps more broadly than the Fifth Amendment itself.” Following this view, exceptions to the Miranda rules are permitted.
While Miranda may impose tolerable limits on ordinary law enforcement efforts, those same limits may be intolerable for a society facing very real threats of terrorism. As one panelist argued during this Symposium, the Bush Administration, ironically, might ultimately be thought of as a “great friend” of Miranda precisely because it has chosen not to proceed against the majority of terrorism suspects in conventional criminal courts. In brief, that theory suggests that because it would be intolerable to abide by constraints such as Miranda in fighting the War on Terror, there is a grave risk that Miranda and other criminal procedure rights would simply be jettisoned along the way in conventional criminal courts, thereby having an impact far beyond the terrorism cases.
While the theory that protections in the realm of ordinary law enforcement are best preserved by keeping the terrorism cases outside of that realm, there are grave risks to a “shadow system” operating wholly outside of the ordinary criminal law enforcement structure. The U.S. government has declared a number of individuals to be “enemy combatants,” and is holding them on that basis without access to the rights normally attendant to the criminal justice system. Many of those individuals are being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This article advocates for according fuller protections to those suspects, while recognizing that the full panoply of rights accorded to criminal defendants in cases like Miranda are not appropriately applied to such individuals.
Part I of the article takes up the question whether the Miranda warnings are “really required” by the Constitution, and, if not, what the implications of that are for the War on Terror, contrasting Miranda rights with more fundamental rights, such as the right to be free from torture.
Part II then addresses the fact that while Miranda serves to over-regulate confessions in important respects, it also fails to fully vindicate core concerns of the Fifth Amendment. Miranda presumes that all custodial interrogation involves compulsion, and regulates custodial interrogation by requiring that warnings be given before a statement can be elicited at trial. If a statement is ultimately compelled, however, based on abusive interrogation techniques, the Court analyzes the problem under the Due Process Clause, which has a narrower scope in some respects than does the Self-Incrimination Clause. For example, the Due Process Clause has not been interpreted to limit the conduct of foreign agents. Thus, if a foreign agent were to use torture to extract a confession, that confession could potentially be admissible at a trial in the United States. In my view this is a violation of core Fifth Amendment concerns.
In Part III, the article then turns to the “right to counsel” aspect of Miranda, arguing that it is beyond the scope of the Fifth Amendment and should be eliminated.
Part IV then turns to the Sixth Amendment right to counsel during adversarial proceedings and argues that that right is so fundamental to basic fairness that it should be recognized, even with respect to terrorism cases and enemy combatants. Finally, this article addresses the fact that proceedings at Guantanamo Bay currently permit coerced statements to be introduced into evidence, and argues that those provisions substantially undermine the fairness of those proceedings.
I. Are the Miranda Warnings Really Required?
The Miranda Court held that “compulsion” is “inherent in custodial surroundings” and further held that, without protection against that compulsion, “no statement obtained from the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice.” Thus, unless other equally effective protective measures are employed, a suspect in custody must be given the following warnings: “that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.” If such warnings are not given, any statement made by the defendant is inadmissible in a later criminal trial.
Much has already been said on the subject of whether the Miranda warnings are “really required” by the Constitution or whether, instead, the Miranda Court’s warnings requirement represented a “prophylactic rule” designed to ensure protection of the Fifth Amendment. Justice Rehnquist explicitly described the Miranda warnings as prophylactic thirty-three years ago in Michigan v. Tucker, which involved the admissibility of the testimony of a witness who had been identified in unwarned statements. The Court consistently repeated that characterization of Miranda until Dickerson v. United States, when the Court held, anomalously, that Miranda was a “constitutional decision” despite “language in some of our opinions” to the contrary. The line of cases describing Miranda as prophylactic, according to the Court, illustrated simply that “no constitutional rule is immutable.” Following Dickerson, the Court continued to describe Miranda as “prophylactic.” Indeed, in United States v. Patane, a plurality of the Court specifically noted that “nothing in Dickerson, including its characterization of Miranda as announcing a constitutional rule, changes any of these observations,” including those regarding the prophylactic nature of Miranda, a proposition with which the majority of the Court agreed.
In this Symposium, however, my colleague Larry Rosenthal provocatively argues– contrary to the views taken by the Court and most commentators–that Miranda is not prophylactic at all. Rather, Professor Rosenthal argues that Miranda properly concluded that custodial interrogation inherently involves Fifth Amendment compulsion. Thus, he continues, “Miranda is not prophylactic–its warnings are required only when a suspect is compelled to incriminate himself, and they ensure that incriminating statements are received in evidence only when a suspect has validly waived the right to be free from compelled self-incrimination.”
While Professor Rosenthal musters powerful arguments for his position, ultimately I believe he overstates the compulsion inherent in custodial interrogation, as the Miranda Court itself overstated that inherent compulsion. The dictionary defines “compel” as “[t]o constrain[:] force,” but most modern custodial interrogation involves efforts to persuade rather than the use of force. As Symposium participant Mark Godsey has persuasively established, “the Framers adopted the self-incrimination clause to ban certain penalties, such as physical punishments . . . .” In the pre-Miranda case Brown v. Mississippi, decided under the Due Process Clause, the Court reached unanimity in condemning the use of brute force to obtain a confession. Miranda, on the other hand, fractured the Court, in part because of the somewhat novel proposition that more-or-less routine custodial interrogation, without warnings, was unconstitutional, even absent earmarks of abuse.
Indeed, even the Miranda majority asserted somewhat gingerly that there is compulsion inherent in custodial interrogation. While the Court did state unequivocally that “[u]nless adequate protective devices are employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice,” elsewhere the Court used less bold language. Describing defendant Ernesto Miranda’s circumstances, for example, the majority noted that the “potentiality for compulsion is forcefully apparent . . . .” The description of custodial interrogation as “potentially” compulsive is, it seems to me, more intellectually honest that describing it as inherently, or inevitably, compulsive. The latter description ignores the real differences among interrogators, and among suspects. While it is certainly true that interrogators are generally motivated to get answers from suspects, some are much more dogged and effective than others. Similarly, some suspects are virtually immune to tactics of persuasion. Some suspects simply do not talk, even when subjected to skillful and prolonged interrogation. Surely the fact that not all suspects talk proves that custodial interrogation does not necessarily involve compulsion. If it did, then every suspect would confess.
Professor Rosenthal argues that the Miranda decision is well-grounded in the nineteenth-century Supreme Court decision of Bram v. United States. In Bram, the Court, applying the Fifth Amendment Self-Incrimination Clause for the first time to a confession in a federal case, held that a confession was compelled when the suspect had been stripped of his clothing, and a detective told the suspect that another person had witnessed him commit a murder and implied that the suspect could help himself by talking. The Court held that such circumstances “perturb the mind and engender confusion of thought,” interpreting the detective’s statements as a “promise of leniency” that resulted in a violation of the Self-Incrimination Clause. As I have previously argued, “[i]f taken seriously, the language of Bram suggests that the Fifth Amendment places extraordinary limits on the scope of permissible interrogations.” Bram itself has been the subject of criticism, but even if one accepts both the relative breadth of Bram and its reliance on the Fifth Amendment Self-Incrimination Clause as being correct, as Professor Rosenthal does, Miranda took Bram a significant step further by determining that all custodial interrogation involves compulsion–even interrogation that does not involve the relatively slight pressure at issue in Bram.
As Professor Steven D. Clymer has put it, “[h]ere, the Miranda Court broke new ground. In Bram, an implied promise of leniency had contributed to the compulsion. In contrast, the Miranda Court concluded from its assessment of police interrogation manuals” that compulsion is inherent in custodial interrogation “even absent any physical violence, threats, or promises.” That is a significant innovation.
As Justice Harlan noted in dissent, the newly-designed Miranda rules appeared designed instead to eliminate any “pressures” on a suspect and to “discourage any confession at all.” While the Miranda opinion actually consolidated four different cases, Justice Harlan focused on the facts of Ernesto Miranda’s case itself, which were representative. In that case, Miranda made both an oral and written confession, having been subjected to interrogation for less than two hours, and without being subjected to “force, threats or promises.” The confessions, Justice Harlan noted, “are now held inadmissible under the Court’s new rules. One is entitled to feel astonished that the Constitution can be read to produce this result.” Miranda confessed “during brief, daytime questioning conducted by two officers and unmarked by any of the traditional indicia of coercion.” Previously, by contrast, the Court had suppressed confessions under the Due Process Clause on a case-by-case approach by taking into account such specific circumstances as “threats or imminent danger, physical deprivations . . ., repeated or extended interrogation, limits on access to counsel or friends, length and illegality of detention under state law, and individual weakness or incapacities.”
Similarly, Justice White pointed out that, until the Miranda decision, it had never been suggested that custodial interrogation “was so coercive and accused persons so lacking in hardihood that the very first response to the very first question following the commencement of custody must be conclusively presumed to be the product of an overborne will.” Famously, Justice White noted that under the Miranda rule, if the police ask a defendant “a single question such as ‘Do you have anything to say?’ or ‘Did you kill your wife?’ his response, if there is one, has somehow been compelled . . . .” Quoting this language in his article, Professor Rosenthal points out that “[m]ost commentators seem to find this point unanswerable.” Professor Rosenthal, however, does not. Rather, he argues that compulsion does exist because the questioner has a badge and a gun and holds the suspect’s liberty in his hands. Even if there is just “a bit” of compulsion as in Justice White’s hypothetical, there is compulsion.
Professor Rosenthal acknowledges, as he must, that not all suspects will succumb to this compulsion; some will have the “fortitude” to resist it. In that case, “there has been no Fifth Amendment violation because the suspect has not been compelled to become a witness against himself.” When a suspect does respond, however, that response is compelled, a fortiori, “by virtue of the compulsive power of custody and the inherent threat that it will continue unless the jailer is somehow satisfied.”
Surely this overstates the case; however, the Miranda Court itself overstated the case. Imagine, for example, a prison inmate who has been well-integrated into the complex social fabric of his prison. Suddenly, he finds himself released on parole, with no job, no friends and no family on “the outside.” Seeking a return to the world he knew, he commits a flagrant crime in the presence of a uniformed officer. The officer arrests the parolee, placing him in handcuffs. The officer does not read any Miranda warnings but instead simply turns to his arrestee and asks, “Why did you do that?” If the man responds, “I did that because I want to go back to prison,” surely that response was not compelled within either the meaning of the Fifth Amendment or under any commonsense understanding of the term. Yet Miranda posits that such a statement has been compelled, and Professor Rosenthal, presumably, would agree.
In later cases, the Court backed off this absolutist position, drawing a distinction between those cases in which a suspect has been “really compelled” (i.e., through the use of brute force) and those cases which represent simply a technical non-compliance with Miranda. The Quarles decision is emblematic of this dichotomy. In that case, in which a suspect ran into a grocery store and ditched his gun, prompting the police to ask about its whereabouts, the Court emphasized that there was no evidence that the defendant’s response regarding the gun’s location was “actually compelled.” Because the statement was not “actually compelled,” but was compelled only in the sense that it would have been presumed compelled under Miranda, the Court held that “concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Miranda.” If, by contrast, the officer on the scene had thrown Quarles to the ground and beaten him until he told police where the gun was, his answer would have been deemed compelled or, more likely, involuntary under the auspices of the Due Process Clause. Because it was not “really compelled” however, the Court carved out an exception to the Miranda rules.
The dissent pointed out the doctrinal incoherence endemic to this approach, noting that the majority had failed to “deal with the constitutional presumption established” in Miranda. In the dissent’s view, the police really did nothing wrong, but the Court did, by failing to accord full weight to Miranda’s presumption of compulsion. As long as the police act consistently with the dictates of due process, “[i]f a bomb is about to explode or the public is otherwise imminently imperiled, the police are free to interrogate suspects without advising them of their constitutional rights.” However, any answers given to such unadvised statements are inadmissible, because they are presumptively compelled. Justice O’Connor made a similar point in her concurring opinion: “When police ask custodial questions without administering the required warnings, Miranda quite clearly requires that the answers received be presumed compelled and that they be excluded from evidence at trial.”
While adherence to the underlying rationale of Miranda may indeed have required exclusion of Quarles’s statement, it is my position that the Fifth Amendment does not, in fact, require the exclusion. In the interest of preventing compelled confessions, Miranda over-regulates in the confessions context. This over-regulation may be tolerable in the majority of cases, but it is intolerable where imminent danger to the public safety is at stake. Understood as a prophylactic rule, Miranda is certainly vulnerable to criticism, including that the original Miranda Court did not describe it that way, and that the later understanding of Miranda as “prophylaxis” is inconsistent with its original rationale. However, a prophylactic Miranda is more politically palatable and stable than one that recognizes no exception. Moreover, a jurisprudence that allows “unwarned” statements but excludes “really compelled” ones is more consistent with core concerns of the Fifth Amendment. In its post-Miranda jurisprudence, the Court essentially created, de facto, a two-tiered system. In cases where confessions are “really compelled,” those confessions cannot be used for any purpose. In those cases where the confession is compelled only in the sense that it is presumed compelled under Miranda, then the warnings may be dispensed with (as in the public safety cases), or, if required but not given, can result in statements that can be used to impeach the defendant if he testifies, or in the admission of the fruits of the statement (such as the physical evidence mentioned by a suspect in an uncoerced statement that nevertheless violated the dictates of Miranda).
Rejecting the notion of Miranda as a prophylactic rule has serious implications for the terrorism cases. If un-Mirandized statements are deemed compelled, then they cannot be used for any purpose. As Professor Clymer argues, “the privilege flatly prohibits the use of compelled statements in criminal cases, no matter how badly or for what purpose the government may need the information that the compelled statement imparts.” Using the example of the threatened use of the contempt sanction in order to force testimony, he points out that a prosecutor choosing to invoke that sanction in order to learn details regarding a bombing plot could do so “only at the cost of exclusion of any resulting statement in a criminal prosecution of the suspected terrorist.” Similarly, he suggests, the cost of obtaining the information from Quarles about his gun in the grocery store should have been exclusion of the evidence. In Clymer’s view, the public safety exception is simply “impossible to reconcile” with the Fifth Amendment privilege.
But it is only impossible to reconcile with the Fifth Amendment privilege as interpreted by Miranda, which I have argued is overly broad and over-regulates confessions. That overly broad interpretation was subscribed to by only a bare majority of the Miranda Court and has been narrowed, appropriately, by subsequent decisions. Because this narrower conception is, in fact, justified, the public safety exception should be broadly applied in the terrorism cases. If such an exception were broadly applied, agents would be free to question terrorism suspects without giving Miranda warnings. Agents would bear the risk that the suspect was not in fact a potential terrorism suspect, and if questions yielded information only about unrelated conventional crimes, the information would have to be suppressed.
Such an exception does not mean that terrorism suspects are left without constitutional protections. Unfortunately, however, as set forth below, the Court’s modern jurisprudence suggests a narrower scope of protection than that suggested by the Constitution for “truly compelled” statements.
II. Miranda and “Really Compelled” Statements
Under the Court’s prior jurisprudence, the Due Process Clause provides primary protection against the use of torture or brute force, because due process is required before the deprivation of “life, liberty, or property.” Thus, that phrase has been interpreted to prevent the infliction of brutality, at least by agents within the jurisdiction of the United States, whereas the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment protects only against the introduction of compelled statements at trial. On the one hand, I have argued that the Court’s interpretation of the Fifth Amendment in Miranda leads to an “over-regulation” of confessions law; but on the other hand, the Court’s exclusive reliance on the Due Process Clause in deciding whether a confession is involuntary under-regulates “truly compelled” statements.
Professor Godsey has persuasively established in his prior work the fact that the Supreme Court, over time, has “unmoored” the Miranda warnings from their original justification (Fifth Amendment compulsion) and now uses them as a first step in determining whether a confession is “voluntary” under a due process analysis. As Professor Godsey puts it,
[T]he Court, in the last four decades, has slowly moved away from Miranda’s original compulsion theory as the underlying justification for the warnings. Instead of requiring the warnings to dispel inherent coercion as described in the Miranda decision, the Court now uses the warnings as a prophylactic rule to make easier the task of determining the “voluntariness” of a confession in the due process sense of that term. Under the modern approach to the due process voluntariness test, however, the Court has narrowed its focus in asking whether a confession is “involuntary,” as compared to the due process inquiry that was in place before Miranda. In Colorado v. Connelly, the Court rejected a claim that a confession was involuntary when made by a mentally deluded individual who walked into a police station and confessed. The fact that the confession may have been utterly unreliable did not lead to exclusion, despite the fact that reliability had historically been a factor in assessing the voluntariness of a confession. In Connelly, the Court focused strictly on the question whether police over-reaching had resulted in the confession: “coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to the finding that a confession is not ‘voluntary’ within the meaning of the Due Process Clause . . . .”
Specifically, the Connelly Court rejected the notion that the trial court’s admission into evidence of the defendant’s potentially unreliable statement was tantamount to the type of state action sufficient to implicate the Due Process Clause. Rather, in order to establish a due process violation, the defendant had to establish an “essential link between coercive activity of the State” and the defendant’s actual confession. In that case, because the state had contributed in no way whatever to the defendant’s underlying confession, the Court found no due process violation.
I have argued previously that Connelly has serious implications for the terrorism cases. Connelly suggests that where there is no “bad act” by U.S. agents, there would be no basis under the Court’s current jurisprudence to exclude a confession obtained through force by foreign agents:
If the due process clauses prevent the admission into evidence of only those confessions caused by deterrable police misconduct, then no conditions or pressure entirely independent of such conduct would render a confession “involuntary” for purposes of the Constitution. This is true even if pressure were imposed, externally, by foreign agents . . ., rather than by internal psychological conditions, such as those present in Connelly. In the Ninth Circuit case of United States v. Wolf, for example, the court suggested that Connelly “cast into serious doubt” the “continuing vitality” of an earlier Ninth Circuit case holding that an involuntary confession obtained by Mexican police would be inadmissible in an American court. This is because, after Connelly, with its emphasis on wrongful, deterrable state action, there is necessarily no due process violation in the absence of wrongful conduct by a state actor that U.S. courts can hope to control.
An overly robust application of the Miranda rules in the terrorism context could lead American agents to have a “perverse incentive” to turn terrorism suspects over to rogue foreign agents, unconstrained by limits on such tactics as torture. Because the Due Process Clause has been interpreted to prevent only bad acts committed by agents within the jurisdiction of American courts, moreover, the Due Process Clause would not forbid the introduction into evidence of forcibly extracted confessions obtained overseas. The Fifth Amendment itself, however, should prevent the introduction of such “truly compelled” statements into evidence at any trial, but the Court thus far has dealt with claims that a confession was “truly compelled” by applying a weakened version of the historic due process voluntariness test rather than the privilege against self-incrimination. As Godsey has argued, “[F]rom textual and doctrinal standpoints, the privilege seems the more appropriate provision with which to regulate confessions, as it speaks directly to the issue of compulsory self-incrimination, while the Due Process Clauses are silent on the matter.” In its modern jurisprudence, however, the Court has unfortunately relegated the Self-Incrimination Clause to the foundation for its resolution of Miranda claims.
Thus, Miranda not only over-regulates in harmful ways, but ultimately under-regulates in an even more damaging way. Surely, whatever else it does, the Self-Incrimination Clause should prevent the introduction into trial of a statement obtained by torture. But with the Court’s alternative focus on warnings and waiver under Miranda, this core concern of the Fifth Amendment has not been vindicated.
It is now plain that the risk that terrorist suspects will be turned over to rogue foreign agents is not just theoretical but real. American agents have participated in turning over suspects for torture pursuant to the practice known as “extraordinary rendition.” To be sure, the reasons for this practice are complex, and it is not just the constraints posed by Miranda that have contributed to it; in fact, Miranda may have played no role whatsoever, particularly if the suspects who have been subjected to extraordinary rendition would not have been part of the conventional criminal court system in this country. Moreover, it could be argued that if American agents participated actively in turning a suspect over to agents knowing that torture would be employed, the American agents’ participation would be significant enough to constitute “state action,” triggering the Due Process Clause–at least if an American citizen were involved. However, foreign citizens would almost certainly receive no protection under a due process analysis. And, presumably, a statement coerced by foreign agents could then be introduced into a conventional criminal trial of a terrorism suspect in the United States. This is inconsistent with the plain language of the Fifth Amendment, which provides that “No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Any statement produced by torture, brute force or coercion should be inadmissible by virtue of the Fifth Amendment, regardless of any way around its inadmissibility under a due process analysis. It is unfortunate that the Court’s focus on waivers under Miranda has moved the emphasis away from other more troubling aspects of interrogation.
III. Miranda’s Right to Counsel Approach
Miranda’s provision of a “right to counsel” may be its most acutely problematic feature. While the Sixth Amendment provides the right to counsel at criminal trials, Miranda held for the first time that suspects should be told that they also have the right to have counsel present during any custodial interrogation. In practice, if a suspect invokes his right to counsel, counsel is almost never provided to assist him during the interrogation. Instead, the interrogation is simply terminated.
Professor Rosenthal defends the right to counsel aspect, arguing that “if one rigorously applies the rule that indulges every reasonable presumption against waiver, it is quite defensible to conclude that suspects cannot be expected to make knowing and intelligent decisions if they are unaware of the availability of expert legal advice.” Taking a somewhat unorthodox approach, Professor Rosenthal’s focus on Miranda’s waiver structure leads him to conclude that by waiving his Miranda rights, the suspect is actually agreeing to be subject to compulsion, not just agreeing to be subject to questioning. Presumably, because he is aware of the right to seek expert legal advice before making that determination, the waiver is valid.
Under the more orthodox view of Miranda, however, the warnings do not serve as a vehicle for a subject to waive his right to be subject to compulsion, but instead the warnings are designed to dispel the compulsion inherent in the custodial interrogation environment. Indeed, the Miranda Court itself noted that the warnings are a “prerequisite in overcoming the inherent pressures of the interrogation atmosphere.” Under this view, because the warnings have “already dispelled” the compulsion inherent in custodial interrogation, a suspect who waives his rights and agrees to submit to questioning is not agreeing to submit to compulsion per se, but rather just to submit to questioning now purged of the taint of compulsion. As the Court noted in a unanimous decision authored by Justice Marshall, “We do not suggest that compliance with Miranda conclusively establishes the voluntariness of a subsequent confession. But cases in which a defendant can make a colorable argument that a self-incriminating statement was ‘compelled’ despite the fact that the law enforcement authorities adhered to the dictates of Miranda are rare.”
I have already argued that the Court’s Miranda jurisprudence has been inadequate in terms of protecting against real compulsion, and doubtless the mere recitation of warnings and a suspect’s waiver are not enough to dispel compulsion. But to the extent that Miranda both over-regulates and under-regulates, the right to counsel has particular earmarks of both. The warning over-regulates insofar as it encourages a suspect not to talk, and instead to seek legal advice, even in circumstances where submitting to unwarned interrogation would not violate the Constitution. It under-regulates because a suspect may hear the right, waive it, and still end up subject to compelling pressures.
In the terrorism context, advising a suspect that he has the right to counsel is an intolerable limit on the need to gather information. The Fifth Amendment surely limits what the government can do to obtain a confession, but just as surely it does not impose an affirmative obligation on the government to provide a lawyer to a suspect during interrogation as Miranda sought to do. That requirement is tantamount to asking the government to “thwart its own investigations,” as it is well-recognized that “any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to police under any circumstances.” Despite the fact that post-Miranda practice has been simply to shut down interrogation after the invocation of the right to counsel, rather than to provide counsel immediately, the fact that the Court later elevated the right-to-counsel strand to provide greater protections for a suspect who invokes this right rather than the right to silence makes Miranda’s right to counsel strand particularly pernicious.
Even if suspects should be advised of their right to remain silent–a right which is at least related to the Fifth Amendment–the right to counsel during interrogation is wholly foreign to the text of the Self-Incrimination Clause and should not form a part of the Court’s Fifth Amendment jurisprudence. This aspect of Miranda’s prophylactic rules should be changed, not just in the terrorism context, but in all cases.
IV. Denial of Significant Rights to Guantanamo Bay Detainees: Coerced Statements and Limits on the Right to Counsel
While the Miranda “right to counsel” is controversial, the right to appointed trial counsel established by a unanimous Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright has been far less so. Among other things, Gideon is much more closely tethered to the text of the Sixth Amendment than is Miranda to the Fifth. The Sixth Amendment provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall . . . have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” Thus, in terrorism cases that proceed in conventional courts, such as the cases involving John Walker Lindh and Zacarias Moussaoui, the defendants are plainly entitled to counsel.
When the Government operates outside the conventional criminal court system, however, the Sixth Amendment arguably does not apply. The Sixth Amendment provides for counsel in “criminal prosecutions,” not in Combatant Status Review Tribunals (“CSRTs”) such as those that have been established for determining “enemy combatant” status, or in Military Commission proceedings. Constitutional right to counsel aside, the question whether counsel should be provided to Guantanamo Bay detainees–for example, as a matter of legislative grace or even through the efforts of committed volunteer lawyers– has not received government support. Indeed, a high-level member of the Bush Administration recently made headlines by representing that it was “unpatriotic” for counsel to step in to represent “enemies” and even suggesting that other clients of corporate law firms should pressure the firms to stop providing pro bono assistance to such individuals.
A complicated issue arises when determining the scope of rights constitutionally required to be provided to detainees at Guantanamo Bay– particularly those who are non-citizens. Initially, the Government took the position, in essence, that those detainees had no right to challenge their detention pursuant to writs of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court rejected that position in Rasul v. Bush, holding that statutory habeas rights extended to the Guantanamo Bay detainees based upon the district court’s jurisdiction over those who had custody of the detainees.
Following the Court’s decision in Rasul and the related case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, involving the rights of a so-called citizen “enemy combatant,” the U.S. Government established CSRTs to determine whether or not those held at Guantanamo were properly classified as enemy combatants. Classification of an individual as an “enemy combatant” has important implications, including the potential for long-term detention without formal charge.
The CSRTs were deeply flawed from the perspective of providing meaningful hearings to the detainees, as documented in a paper prepared by Mark Denbeaux and his team of student researchers. Among many other significant limitations was the fact that the detainees had no right to counsel. As Denbeaux documented:
The CSRT procedures recommended that the Government have an attorney present at the hearing; the same procedures deny the detainees any right to a lawyer.
Instead of a lawyer, the detainee was assigned a “personal representative”–whose role, both in theory and practice, was minimal.
. . . .
At the end of the hearing, the personal representative failed to exercise his right to comment on the decision in 98% of the cases . . . .
. . . .
In light of the other significant shortfalls of the CSRTs, including the fact that the CSRTs permitted hearsay from anonymous sources and evidence obtained through torture, the fact that there was no right to counsel takes on even more significant ramifications. While an attorney could point to the serious limits of such evidence, the detainee himself or his personal representative would be far less equipped to do so.
Based on recent legislation, it is now plain that Congress intended to strip detainees held as enemy combatants of their right to seek judicial review of those determinations pursuant to writs of habeas corpus. In addition, while the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (“MCA”) contemplates that some enemy combatants will be provided with trial-like proceedings before Military Commissions, those proceedings provide vastly more limited protections than do either ordinary criminal trials or traditional military courts martial. Of specific importance to this article, the MCA, while purporting to ban the use of statements obtained by “torture,” does contemplate the use of statements obtained from detainees where the amount of “coercion” used is the subject of dispute.
Thus, statements can be introduced if obtained by coercive means falling short of “torture,” a term which the Administration has defined narrowly in other contexts. Being adjudged guilty under the MCA of certain crimes can lead to the ultimate penalty of death.
Moreover, the MCA does not guarantee military commission proceedings for all detainees. This means that individuals deemed “enemy combatants” under the severely truncated CSRT proceedings can potentially be held indefinitely. Ultimately, the United States may be executing, imprisoning and holding indefinitely vast numbers of detainees based upon procedures that are strikingly different and less protective than those accorded to criminal defendants.
Finally and perhaps most significantly, the MCA sought to strip federal courts of jurisdiction to hear claims under the statutory provision for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2241. In Boumediene v. Bush, a split panel of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld the provisions of the MCA, finding that Congress had plainly intended to strip the courts of jurisdiction under the habeas corpus statute and that no constitutional right to habeas corpus could be claimed by aliens lying outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
In deciding Rasul, the Supreme Court held earlier that aliens held at Guantanamo Bay had a statutory right to habeas corpus. Now that Congress has amended the statute expressly to remove the courts’ jurisdiction to hear aliens’ claims under the statute, the Court will have to determine whether Congress violated the Suspension Clause. That Clause provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”
Whether the War on Terror, now in its seventh year, constitutes a “Rebellion or Invasion” is dubious. While the Executive Branch has relied on wartime precedent for the notion that battlefield detainees are not entitled to constitutional protections, the Guantanamo Bay detainees are in a different position than those captured and held on the battlefield. Perhaps more significantly, given our control over the facilities at Guantanamo Bay, the length of time we have been holding detainees, and the conditions in which the world knows they have been held, the detaining authorities are in a different position than battlefield commanders who must make rapid decisions in the heat of battle and who are necessarily diverted by the daily constraints of war.
Analyzing the scope of the constitutional protections available to Guantanamo Bay detainees is beyond the scope of this article. But we must recognize that the “shadow system” we are engaged in is deeply problematic. We are using coerced confessions and we are holding prisoners indefinitely who have had none of the protections of an adversarial system to challenge their status as “enemy combatants.” This is inconsistent with the spirit of the rights provided by our Constitution, even if there is an argument that executive authority in wartime is broad enough to justify this system. We should be deeply concerned about a system that has generated much global criticism. If we lose moral authority, we lose the power to persuade on the world stage. As my colleague Donald J. Kochan has recently noted, persuasion is an important “‘soft power’ weapon that has a place in the plan in the war on terror.” The utility of that power, however, “is directly proportional to a nation’s credibility to make claims that there is quality in the intellectual and ideological commodities it has to offer.”
Forty years after Miranda, we must recognize that Miranda is an imperfect solution to the problem of coerced confessions. Particularly in the context of terrorism cases, we do not have the luxury of according its prophylactic protections, especially when not tethered to the Constitution. On the other hand, we must recognize that the right against self-incrimination is absolute, and that truly compelled statements should form no part of our criminal justice system. Outside of the criminal justice system, in the context of military detentions, the applicability of constitutional protections is far less certain. But we have learned much in the criminal justice system about the dangers and unfairness of coerced confessions and the vital role played by counsel. Any system that does not provide such core protections should be viewed with skepticism.
The Warren Court’s enthusiasm for prescriptive equality greatly influenced the holdings that form the basis of modern interrogation and confessions doctrine. The Court constructed this doctrine under the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. Under these clauses, the Justices concluded that the poor and ignorant should be made the equal of the rich and well-informed in their dealings with police interrogators. The Justices also concluded that the uncharged suspect who had not yet been to court should be treated as equal to the accused against whom adversary judicial proceedings had commenced. These notions of equality were crucial to the evolution of modern doctrine regulating interrogation and confessions practice.
Id. See also id. at 398 (“The forces that moved five Justices to endorse the Miranda opinion cannot be understood without an appreciation of the influence of the equality notion on the Court.”).
Additionally, and more significant still, continued detention may be justified by a CSRT on the basis of evidence resulting from torture. Testimony procured by coercion is notoriously unreliable and unspeakably inhumane….The DTA [Detainee Treatment Act (“DTA”)] implicitly endorses holding detainees on the basis of such evidence by including an anti-torture provision that applies only to future CSRTs. DTA § 1005(b)(2), 119 Stat. at 2741. Even for these future proceedings, however, the Secretary of Defense is required only to develop procedures to assess whether evidence obtained by torture is probative, not to require its exclusion. Id. § 1005(b)(1), 119 Stat. at 2741.
Id. at *19 (Rogers, J., dissenting) (first citation omitted).