Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition to rehear arguments in a pivotal case involving the alleged policies of Los Angeles Police Department and Santa Monica Police Department officers to interrogate suspects 'outside Miranda' despite the suspects' invocation of their right to remain silent and their requests for an attorney. The case is California Attorneys for Criminal Justice v. Butts (U.S. District Court for the Central District, Case No. 97- 56499). The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, along with Boalt Hall professor Charles Weisselberg, had argued successfully that police officers were not free to ignore a suspect's assertion of Miranda rights whenever they chose.
ACLU Legal Director Mark Rosenbaum praised today's Appeals Court ruling, declaring that, 'the failure of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica Police Departments to secure even a single vote from any Ninth Circuit judge in support of their petition for rehearing is a stinging repudiation of their efforts to subvert the Supreme Court's mandate in Miranda. Apparently, respect for the Constitution was not on the LAPD or SMPD's list of New Year's resolutions and despite the almost daily revelations in the Rampart scandal, neither department has sought reform in any meaningful way. In any case, the Ninth Circuit has decreed that when a suspect invokes the right to remain silent, the LAPD and SMPD must remain silent, too, prohibited from the coercive tactics to extract confessions they had come to rely upon.'
The initial suit was brought on behalf of James McNally and James Bey, each of whom repeatedly asked for a lawyer during interrogation. But police disregarded their requests, continuing to ask questions while falsely assuring the suspects that because they had requested counsel, nothing else they said could be used against them. Filed in December, 1995, the suit sought to redress the deprivation of defendant's rights, privileges and immunities arising under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The lawsuit challenged the common police practice of continuing to conduct interrogations of suspects even after they have clearly invoked their right to silence or their right to consult with an attorney.