Dec 20, 2012 Maryland’s highest court perverts Miranda after Defendant denies understanding Miranda warnings given in his second language
Mixtec is an Indian language that long predates Spanish’s introduction in Mexico. A few years ago, police in Maryland arrested Ramiro Arce Gonzalez for suspicion of rape and murder. Gonzalez v. Maryland, ___ Md. ___ (Dec. 20, 2012). The police learned early on that Gonzalez’s first language is Mixtec, did not understand Spanish well — not even the words "attorney" and court", which goes to show how poor his Spanish was — but proceeded to have a Spanish speaking police officer interpret for another police officer in Mirandizing Gonzalez and interrogating him, despite his repeated assertion that he did not understand the Spanish-language Miranda warnings, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), which the Spanish-speaking officer tried remedying merely by expounding further in Spanish on the warnings, which sounds like a sad farce straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan, at best.
Standing Miranda on its head — perhaps giving more weight than Constitutionally permissible to the importance of cops getting confessions than in those confessions passing Fifth Amendment muster — Maryland’s highest court today affirmed the trial court’s admission of Gonzalez’s confession despite Gonzalez’s above-described deep difficulty understanding Spanish, and despite the Spanish-speaking officer’s reliance on Gonzalez’s co-defendant’s sister’s (and what were her linguistic and bilingual qualifications?) providing a Mixtec translation of the critical words "attorney" and "court". Worse, the Spanish speaking officer forgot which purportedly Mixtec words he ultimately used for "lawyer" and "court" and did not record those words. Furthermore, it appears that the case record is bereft about any reliability on the co-defendant’s sister’s ability to translate those words.
Praised be the three dissenting judges among the seven in Gonzalez for seeing through Gonzalez’s Miranda charade, and saying point blank that Gonzalez’s confession should not have been admitted at trial.
The majority’s and dissent’s legal analysis and legal rules discussion are discussed in much more detail than in my foregoing blog entry. Maryland’s Court of Appeals repeatedly vindicates Constitutional rights in criminal cases, but failed to do so in Gonzalez.