Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Devallis Rutledge has trained police officers that they are free to question suspects who have asked for a lawyer, in violation of the Miranda decision.
In "Teachings Put Prosecutor on the Defensive" (March 4), columnist Jerry Hicks portrays Rutledge as a man unfairly attacked by mean-spirited defense attorneys. Hicks doesn't tell the real story.
My students and I are co-counsel in a civil-rights lawsuit challenging this practice of questioning in violation of Miranda. We have never sought to attack Rutledge personally. Rather, our only efforts have been to stop this practice.
In Hicks' column, Rutledge claims that it is perfectly legal to continue to question suspects "outside Miranda." Yet just this past year, the California Supreme Court unanimously rejected Rutledge's position.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, the court called such questioning "illegal" and "police misconduct." It is difficult to understand how Rutledge can continue to train officers to interrogate "outside Miranda."
Rutledge may disagree with the court's ruling, but as an attorney and trainer he is not free to disregard it. His intransigence may be one reason why there is now a bill pending in Sacramento to end this sort of training once and for all.
I do not dispute that Rutledge has a distinguished record of public service. But that record cannot excuse his present conduct. The district attorney's office prosecutes people who break the law.
Well, officers and prosecutors are bound by the law too. I worry that Rutledge's tactics may help us win the war against crime but lose all that is worth fighting for.
CHARLES D. WEISSELBERG
UC Berkeley School of Law