The Supreme Court today denied review in People v. Valencia, a case involving a Miranda issue, but Justice Goodwin Liu recorded a vote to grant.  Continuing a practice he revived several years ago, he accompanies this recorded vote with a detailed separate statement explaining why the court should have heard the case.  He also includes a plea to the Legislature to address the Miranda issue “in light of this court’s reluctance to intervene.”

In Valencia, the Second District, Division Eight, Court of Appeal’s unpublished opinion rejected the defendant’s claim that his Miranda rights were violated when the superior court admitted into evidence a murder confession he had made — after invoking his right to remain silent — to an undercover police officer posing as a fellow jail inmate.  Relying on a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case, the appellate court said, “Miranda forbids coercion, not strategic deception that tricks suspects into trusting someone they see as a fellow prisoner.”  It also spoke approvingly of another “planned ruse,” where the police falsely told the defendant that a witness had identified him in a lineup.

Justice Liu sees things differently.  Focusing on the confession to the undercover officer, which he says “appears to be a common police practice throughout California,” Liu wonders, “[h]ow is it possible . . . that the protections of Miranda are so easily evaded?”  He argues that the court should decide the practice’s legality, adding, “Compliance with Miranda is not a game, and the Legislature, if not this court, should make that clear.”

Last month, Justice Liu recorded votes dissenting from the denial of review in two cases that included Miranda issues similar to the one in Valencia.  However, both Court of Appeal opinions in those cases addressed other issues as well and Liu did not issue a separate statement identifying the issue that attracted his attention.  We suggested that a separate statement, even just a sentence or two, would be a welcome clarification.  Liu’s separate statement today seems to clear up the reason for his recorded votes last month and leaves no doubt why he wanted the court to hear the Valencia case.

[Update:  Maura Dolan in the Los Angeles Times — “Judge urges Legislature to bar police from using ‘deceptive schemes’ to skirt Miranda rights.”]


Justice Liu separate statements influence legislative session