Criminal Confessions and the Mentally Disabled

Colorado v Connelly and the Future of Free Will
  • Michael L. Perlin
Part of the Critical Issues in American Psychiatry and the Law book series (CIAP, volume 5)


Few sets of tea leaves are examined, analyzed, and pored over as closely as any United States Supreme Court decision involving what is generically known as a Miranda issue.1 The scholarly and popular debates that have raged since a badly fractured Warren Court attempted to establish a “bright line” test for admissibility of confessions in Miranda v Arizona2 have given Miranda a symbolic value that extends far beyond the decision’s actual impact on police interrogation.3 Although the Burger (and now the Rehnquist) Courts have expressed dissatisfaction with the constitutional and philosophical underpinnings of the doctrine, the “inescapably political overtones” of an outright reversal4 make it likely that Miranda will not be overruled “at this late date.”5 Even though the doctrine—by the Court’s own reckoning—remains “murky,”6 and its empirical impact remains questionable,7 it remains a “punch-drunk fighter, reeling on the ropes but not yet counted out.”8


Supra Note Mental Disability Criminal Procedure State Court National Mental Health 
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  1. 1.
    For a recent sampling, see, e.g., Schulhofer: Reconsidering Miranda. 54 U Chi Law Rev 435 (1987); Bradley: Criminal procedure in the Rehnquist court: Has the Rehnquisi- tion begun? 62 Ind Law Rev 273 (1987); Saltzburg: Miranda v Arizona revisited: Constitutional law or judicial fiat? 26 Washburn Law J 1 (1986); Ogletree: Are confes-sions really good for the soul? A proposal to Mirandize Miranda. 100 Harv Law Rev 1826 (1987). For a stark point-counterpoint debate, compare Caplan: Questioning Miranda. 38 Vand Law Rev 1417 (1985), to White: Defending Miranda: A reply to Professor Caplan. 39 Vand Law Rev 1 (1986).Google Scholar
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    384 U.S. 436 (1966). As originally articulated, the Miranda rules stipulated:[T]he prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from the custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. As for the procedural safeguards to be employed, unless other fully effective means are devised to inform accused persons of their right of silence and to assure a continuous opportunity to exercise it, the following measures are required. Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The defendant may waive ef-fectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. If, however, he indicates in any manner and at any stage of the process that he wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking, there can be no questioning. Likewise, if the individual is alone and indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated, the police may not question him. The mere fact that he may have answered some questions or volunteered some statements on his own does not deprive him of the right to refrain from answering further inquiries until he has consulted with an attorney and thereafter consents to be questioned.Id. at 444–445 (footnote omitted). Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Sonenshein: Miranda and the Burger court: Trends and countertrends.13 Loy U Chi Law J 405, 415 (1982); Israel: Criminal procedure, the Burger court, and the legacy of the Warren court. 75 Mich Law Rev 1319, 1374 (1977) (“Although the value of the Miranda ruling in effectively protecting the suspect’s self-incrimination privilege is debatable, the decision has a symbolic quality that extends far beyond its practical impact upon police interrogation methods”).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael L. Perlin
    • 1
  1. 1.Federal Litigation ClinicNew York Law SchoolNew YorkUSA

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