On July 15, 2003, the California Supreme Court unanimously overturned a murder conviction "based on confessions gained by the deliberate violation of a suspected killer's Miranda rights." (Law 2003). Justice Marvin Baxter was very firm in his opinion that officers have an absolute obligation to "play by the rules when questioning suspects in custody and that their deliberate failure to do so will be severely disciplined." (Law 2003).
Kenneth Ray Neal was convicted of second degree murder for the 1999 strangulation murder of his friend and housemate Donald Collins. Neal was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison. Neal was an obviously uneducated eighteen year old, and Detective Mario Martin deliberately continued to question Neal even after he asked for a lawyer nine times. After spending a night in jail the eighteen year old sought Detective Martin out and confessed to the murder.
The California Supreme Court decided that Neal's decision to re-contact Martin was "involuntary" based specifically on the detective's deliberate violate of Neal's Miranda rights, his youth, inexperience and low intelligence. They further cited "promises and threats made by Martin and the fact that Neal was isolated and deprived of food and water while in jail." (Law 2003).
The California Supreme Court further stated that "the consequence of the officer's misconduct-the absolute inability to introduce the confessions at trial-is severe, but is intended to deter other officers from engaging in misconduct of this sort in the future." (Law 2003). The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice made a strong argument that officers around the country are being taught to ignore Miranda with the hope of getting evidence to impeach the accused.
Many times when an officer has just elicited a confession to a crime he has a sinking sensation when he realizes he inadvertently violated Miranda. If the crime was serious and the suspect's statement absolutely crucial to proving the case that sinking feeling will soon turn into panic. Many officers, when caught in this scenario will offer up the suspect's Miranda rights, and simply start over as though there had been no violation at all. (Miranda 2004). The suspect, having already confessed, rarely realizes the tactics until it is too late. In the case of Oregon v. Elstad a sheriff's deputy arrested eighteen year old Michael Elstad in his home on a burglary warrant, and without obtaining a Miranda waiver, the deputy asked Elstad if he knew the victim of the burglary. Elstad agreed that he did in fact know the victim. The deputy then stated that he believed Elstad to be a party to the break-ins and Elstad admitted "I was there."
Later, once Elstad was at the sheriff's office, he waived his Miranda rights and confessed. The issue became whether the subsequent confession should have been allowed as the first statement Elstad made regarding being at the scene of the burglary was elicited without proper Miranda warning. The court pointed out that "failure to warn-which it termed a "technical" violation-differs in significant respects from constitutional violations which have traditionally mandated a broad application of the