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Miranda and Metaphysics

Scott Cheever, a long time user of crystal meth,  shot and killed an officer while high. At trial he used the defense that in his intoxicated state he could not have formed the “intent to kill” that would get him the death penalty.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but during the trial in state court the prosecution called to the witness stand a psychiatrist who had earlier examined the defendant under a federal court order, before the case was transferred to state court. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state violated Cheever’s Fifth amendment right against self-incrimination by calling the psychiatrist to testify.

The question before the U.S. Supreme Court today, are statements made by a defendant during a court-ordered mental evaluation protected under the fifth amendment?

Several times during the argument reference was made to “peering into the defendant’s mind”.  Does it seem fair, as Cheever’s attorney, Neal Katyal, put it  “that the government can peer into someone’s mind and extract information . . . un-Mirandized . . . and have that used against them”?  . . . After all isn’t it just a little bit like cheating on your metaphysics final by looking into the soul of the boy sitting next to you ? . . . (apologies to Woody Allen)

By the end of the argument it wasn’t looking good for Scott Cheever as Justice Sotomayor asked his lawyer, “Mr. Katyal, assuming the incredulity of my colleagues . . . which way would you rather lose?



Bring Your Children Cases to Court Day

The two cases argued before the Supreme Court today involved the welfare of children.  In the first, Turner v. Rogers, the Court was asked if deadbeat dads who fail to pay child support have a right to counsel when facing incarceration.

The second case, J.D.B v. North Carolina, concerned the Miranda warning, and whether the age of a juvenile should be taken into consideration when determining if the child is in custody.  Pictured below is the attorney representing the juvenile, J.D.B.


Among the Justices favoring making age a Miranda factor was Justice Breyer who referred to his dissenting opinion in an earlier Miranda case, Yarbourough v. Alvarado.

Justice Breyer to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper :  “You know the sentence I’m referring to in my dissent, presumably?  We hope.  When I have set forth the test which was not accepted.”

At which point Justice Scalia interjected, “Some people don’t  – – some people don’t read the sentence.  He may not have read it.”

AP story here.