John Quintanilla, Jr., was murdered by the State of Texas on Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court denied two last minute appeals.
One of the appeals argued that the confession that prosecutors played at trial was the product of coercion and should never have been admitted into evidence. The scenario by which the confession was obtained points out the absolute absurdity of an accused's right to counsel.
If the police arrest someone and want to question him, they must read the suspect his Miranda warning. If, after being so warned, the suspect decides not to talk - or decides he wants to speak with a lawyer - the police are not allowed to question him further unless he initiates the conversation.
When a defendant is brought before a magistrate, the magistrate admonishes the defendant of his right to remain silent and not answer any questions. He is also informed that he has the right to counsel.
The problem occurs if the police don't inform a suspect of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent before he is taken before a magistrate. That's because the magistrate is informing the suspect of his Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer - not his Fifth Amendment right to a lawyer.
The Sixth Amendment lawyer is there to guide the defendant through court proceedings while the Fifth Amendment lawyer is there to tell a suspect to keep his mouth shut when being asked questions by the police. But, when a defendant is first admonished by a magistrate the police are free to sit him down and question him about any other matters even if the defendant doesn't initiate the conversation.
And that's how Mr. Quintanilla found himself confessing to a murder. He had been arrested for an unrelated case and was admonished by the magistrate. The police then began to question him and out of his mouth tumbled facts and statements that pointed to him as the murderer.
Mixed up in the gumbo were also allegations by Mr. Quintanilla that the police threatened members of his family if he didn't tell them what they wanted to know.
And, now, with last night's execution, the circle of death is complete. No purpose was served. No one was brought back to life. Once again we lowered ourselves and revealed our basest nature.