New York’s highest court ruled on Tuesday that a script prosecutors in the Queens district attorney’s office had read to criminal defendants before they were arraigned so undercut the Miranda warning that it violated their constitutional rights.
In a 6-to-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals found that the way pre-arraignment interviews were conducted in two cases gave the message to the defendants, “for all intents and purposes, that remaining silent or invoking the right to counsel would come at a price — they would be giving up a valuable opportunity to speak with an assistant district attorney, to have their cases investigated or to assert alibi defenses.”
The ruling was a milestone in a long-running fight between the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, and civil libertarians over the office’s practice of interrogating people accused of crimes one last time before they appear before a judge and are assigned a lawyer.
Mr. Brown, in a statement, said that to satisfy the court, his office had already cut the lines from the script used at the interviews. But he defended the program, saying it had been successful not only in winning convictions, but also in weeding out weak cases. He vowed to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court.
Writing for the majority, Judge Susan Phillips Read said that statements in the script like “give me as much information as you can,” “this is your opportunity to tell us your story” and “you have to tell us now” directly contradicted the later warning that they had the right to remain silent.
“By advising them that speaking would facilitate an investigation, the interrogators implied that these defendants’ words would be used to help them, thus undoing the heart of the warning that anything they said could and would be used against them,” Judge Read wrote.