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Supreme Court

February 24, 1988

The saddest thing about the fury of letters attacking your editorial concerning the new California Supreme Court's Miranda rollback ruling ("Supreme Turnabout," Feb. 15) is their ignorance of history.

The former Supreme Court ruling barring use of confessions obtained in violation of Miranda to contradict a defendant's trial testimony--the one that was reversed by Proposition 8 and which your correspondents decry--was rendered years before Rose Bird (and Cruz Reynoso, and Joseph Grodin, for that matter) ever sat on the bench. It came from the Wright court in 1976, and the swing vote was the late Chief Justice Donald Wright, a Reagan-appointed Republican who was unwilling to countenance judicial undermining of the Miranda decision.

Why? Because this judge--unlike your critics--knew that not only guilty people confess when pressured by police custody. He also knew--unlike your critics--that a defendant's perjury can easily be exposed without using an illegal confession to prove it. And he believed that as a civilized society we are capable of both convicting our criminals and giving the accused among us meaningful assurance of the rights our forefathers granted all of us 200 years ago.

The quickest way to surrender our freedoms is to forget about them.

LAURENCE F. JAY

Los Angeles

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