Juvenile-justice experts stress that as juveniles differ developmentally from adults, they should be treated in a different way in the criminal justice system. "Minors are generally less mature, more submissive in the face of police authority, and lack critical knowledge and experience, as compared to adults," Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, in a friend-of-the-court brief, stresses. ("How should police...," 2004)
Special Miranda Rule for Juveniles?
During October 1995, Detective Cheryl Comstock, Los Angeles County Sheriff's department, contacted the mother of Michael Alvarado, seventeen-years-old, who had been involved in an attempted car robbery resulting in Francisco Castaneda's murder. In turn, Alvarado's parents brought Alvarado to the Sheriff's station and advised Comstock she could interview him. Alvarado, and his parents requested that someone accompany Alvarado during the interview, however, the requests were dismissed. ("How should police...," 2004) Regarding the determination of Alvardo's ultimate appeal.".. The substantive matter of whether a juvenile's age should be included in the custodial inquiry," Park contends, "the Court was wrong to conclude that juvenile status should not be a consideration." As a cognitive and physiological difference exists between adolescents and adults, warranting dissimilar treatment of the two, including age lessen the custodial analysis' objectiveness. Police procedures currently consider juvenile status for the interrogation process. (Park, 2005) Miranda warnings mandate police warn a criminal suspect of his/her rights when he/she is taken into custody.
If police fail to present a warning, statements and/or information a suspect give to police "prior to the warning must be barred from use as evidence." Whether or not juveniles are entitled to a customized Miranda warning, perhaps protecting juveniles from interrogations without a parent or caregiver present, albeit, continues to be open for debate. Alvarado's lawyers argue.".. juveniles should be treated more deferentially than adults because of their age and lack of experience with police. 'The law has long given controlling weight to juvenile status in innumerable legal contexts, including interrogation because it creates a vulnerability repeatedly noted by this court as requiring additional care and concern in police-citizen interactions," Tara Allen, Alvarado's lawyer, stressed during her brief to the court. ("How should police...," Ibid.) California and the Solicitor General's Office, on the other hand, argue that a new juvenile Miranda rule would make solving particular crimes more challenging and complicate law-enforcement effort. This could adversely affect free and voluntary confessions. Inbau (1999) questions the idea of Courts attempting to solve the juvenile delinquency problem by decreeing courtroom reprimands to a delinquent's parents. Just as the roots for juvenile delinquency are manifold and deep-rooted, so are police abuses and illegal practices.
III. The Presumption of Innocence
When Ingraham (1996) discusses The American Doctrine regarding "The Presumption Of Innocence," he questions the morality of ancillary doctrines, such as "The American doctrine of the accused person's 'right of silence' and the almost absolute protection the doctrine offers to prevent adverse consequences from exercising this right are also derived in large part from the presumption of innocence." Ingraham (Ibid) concurs with O'Reilly's assertion in that regarding the American doctrine related to the presumption of innocence the prosecution (the state) has the burden to prove all the essential facts of a charged crime "beyond a reasonable doubt" [BARD].
Just Doing their Job?
Despite current proliferation of external oversight and civilian review agencies related to the way complaints against police officers are investigated, accountability mechanisms frequently fail to placate citizens' concerns, such as those in the ethical realm. Complainants regarding police practices, including interrogations of juveniles abound. (Goldsmith, 1996) Criticism also often reflects concerns of inadequate accountability of police. Making a complaint, however, is considered useless by some as officers are generally deemed to be just doing their job. (Goldsmith, 1996) On the other hand, a great number of police officer do more then their job requires and regularly implement positive ethical behaviors during the interrogation of juveniles and make a point to invite parents and caregivers to attend sessions.
Just the Facts
In light of criticisms and compliments regarding interrogations, as Joe Friday, police detective in the old American television program who served as the.".. quintessential forensic realist," (Goldsmith, 1996) frequently insisted, what is needed in regard to the concern of this paper is "just the facts." suspects' lines of defense are reportedly too often considered irrelevant "red-herrings" and argued away and/or ignored. When direct evidence is absent, testimonial evidence is vital for forensic purposes. A typical interrogation frequently involve a "theory of the case," or elements of the initial suspicions prompting the interrogation of a suspect. While suspects usually proclaim their innocence and attempt to provide positive evidence to support their innocence claim, police often tenaciously rebuff a suspect's claim. The interrogating officer frequently presumes the suspect is guilty. The purpose of the interrogation is to retrieve a confession.
This purpose, particularly with parents present during the interrogation of a juvenile, this researcher argues, might be better filled with "just the facts"
There is no question, Inbau (1999), contends, with satire, that improper interrogation practices could be eliminated if Courts or Legislatures outlawed using confessions as evidence of guilt. This would be as preposterous as trying to eliminate traffic fatalities.".. By requiring governors to be placed on all automobiles to prevent their going faster than twenty miles per hour... A great sacrifice of much else."
Is it constitutional to execute juvenile killers? Is it ethical to interrogate a juvenile without his/her parent(s) or caregiver present?
Holland (2004) does not specifically answer these two questions, but does note one specific case the court considered, which in a sense does present poignant answers. Regarding the constitutionality of executing juvenile killers, "Justices voted 5-4 to reinstate a young man's murder conviction and said police have no obligation to treat younger suspects differently from adults under the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling that led to the warning that begins 'You have the right to remain silent.'"
In fact, the statement,.".. police have no obligation to treat younger suspects differently from adults under the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling..." answers more than the two cited questions. Insuring ethical practices are employed when interrogating juveniles may not be a legal obligation for a police officer, but could it be a moral one? Numerous studies purport that along with.".. destructive environmental factors such as poverty, inadequate housing and education, lack of work opportunities, drug addiction, alcoholism, and domestic violence...." (O'Connor & Treat, 1996) juvenile crime stems from weakened family and community structures. To help counter this current national plight, additional social concerns, including ethical issues, need to be addressed. Instead of the juvenile justice system serving as a preventative tool, juveniles are introduced to the system after they have stepped over the law's line and generally presumed guilty. At one point in its history, the juvenile system set out to "save" juveniles, but through time, the system appears to have "lost its individualized character and instead began to place juveniles in large congregate care facilities with little individually tailored attention," breaking the bond of family even more. Some hybrid programs, nevertheless, are proving to be successful for rehabilitating juveniles; particularly those programs that monitor and work with the juvenile, along with his/her family, after he/she reenters the community.
Despite any juvenile program's success, however, unless those who work in the system model ethical behaviors, positive behavioral changes may be adversely impacted. Police officer who interrogate youth who are suspects in a crime, serve on the front lines of the war on crime that too many troubled youth are forced to battle. Some will make it and ultimately lead a productive, law-abiding live. A few, however, on the verge of becoming potentially dangerous, habitual criminals, will continue down the wrong way. When a police office or other person interrogates a juvenile in a way that reflects anything other than the best moral and ethical behaviors, he is doing them a senseless injustice.
Geraghty & Drizin (1999) contend that Judges frequently fail to speak up and propose thoughtful solutions for the senseless injustices they see done to children on a daily basis. Some judges who are empathetic to the new juvenile justice draconian approaches fail to speak out as they support the "get tough" policies. Other judges fail do not verbalize counter thoughts as they are concerned they would inevitably become entangled with the political process and violate the Code of Judicial Conduct's prohibition and foster the impression they lack impartiality. This researcher posits that one daily injustice regularly practiced in the legal system is the interrogation of isolated juveniles.
As a juvenile court judge most likely has the best overview of the U.S. juvenile justice systems' problems, and they may speak out on subjects to advance the cause of justice - their voices need to be heard - even though they, as the juveniles they judge on a daily basis, have to right to remain silent. Hopefully in the…