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'California Gets It Right'

October 20, 1986

In your editorial (Oct. 7), "California Gets It Right," you applaud the California Supreme Court for throwing out the conviction of a defendant convicted of selling two pounds of cocaine. As the facts of the case make plain, the court's decision is not deserving of your praise.

After his arrest for selling cocaine, the police questioned the defendant. Before doing so, he was warned of all of his Miranda rights, i.e., his right to remain silent, to speak to a lawyer before questioning, and so on. The defendant agreed to answer questions, and he waived his right to a lawyer.

While he was being questioned, some "friends" of the drug pusher hired a lawyer who went to the police station and asked to see the defendant. The police did not allow the lawyer to see him, nor did they tell the defendant that a lawyer wanted to see him.

On these facts, the California Supreme Court held that the suspect's rights against self-incrimination and assistance of counsel were violated. And so, another conviction of a drug trafficker goes down the tubes.

Your praise of the California Supreme Court's decision is both naive and misguided. No drug trafficker works alone. He is part of a criminal organization. He always has a source of supply and other co-conspirators who want to stay in the shadows. Virtually anything will be done by the higher-ups to keep a drug pusher, who gets arrested, quiet. This includes getting him a lawyer and who will tell him to keep quiet.

The lawyer, wittingly or unwittingly, is assisting the higher-ups in the narcotic organization, and invariably it is the higher-ups who are paying for the lawyer.

Under the California Supreme Court's ruling, you can bet attorneys retained by narcotic trafficking organizations will be dispatched to police stations the moment one of their members is arrested. Reason: To make sure no one talks.

On the identical facts as these, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a defendant's constitutional rights were not violated. The California Supreme Court, though, rejected the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling and expanded the rights of criminal defendants in California.

Unfortunately, the California court's decision unnecessarily protects other criminal conspirators in drug trafficking organizations, and worse, it infringes on the rights of the law-abiding public to be free of narcotic traffickers and the enormous social harm they are inflicting on our society.

ROBERT C. BONNER

U.S. Attorney

Los Angeles

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