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Confessions: Ethical Dilemmas

For long time, confessions have been considered the universal standard of evidence for police all over the globe as they are among the most effectual proofs in a court of law. However, not all confessions are admissible in a court. The admissibility of the confession is dependent on a host of factors including voluntariness of the confession. This paper, based on the provided case study, interrogates the admissibility of the supposed confessions that had been made by the theft suspects. It examines the case from three different viewpoints, making an assessment of whether the confessions made are admissible, whether there were hearsays, and whether the Miranda rule was correctly applied. The analysis indicates the confession as admissible in a court of law since it was made freely and voluntarily.

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Lens 1: Law Enforcement

From the law enforcement perspective, there is a single instance in the scenario that can be classified as hearsay. These are statements equivalent to testimony made by the witness to the fact (Kanovitz, 2015). When the law enforcement officers were being briefed by the festival security personnel, a police officer overheard a suspect telling the relative that the detention was as a result of taking the items from the vendors without payment. While the law essentially prohibits the use of another person’s statement, there are several hearsay exemptions or exceptions that can be applied (Garland, 2015). Two such exemptions that are applicable in this instance are that the statement was an excited utterance and the admission of guilt. 

From the law enforcement perspective, it is also evident that the suspects provided confessions. For instance, there is a suspect who, without being coerced, made inculpatory remarks to the relative in the presence of the law enforcement officers. Furthermore, while being transported to jail, the suspects engaged in casual conversations with the police officers and provided incriminating confessions by revealing their timelines. Since the suspects had not been threatened or otherwise forced to make the confessions, the last were offered freely and voluntarily and should be admissible as evidence at trial (Garland, 2015). 

Additionally, it is also evident that the Miranda rule was correctly applied. The officers did not interrogate the suspects until they reached the local jail where they read them the Miranda rights before starting the interrogation. The law demands that a law enforcement officer gives the Miranda warning to a suspect before custodial interrogation (Garland, 2015). Granted, the suspects were in custody; however, the conversation that they had with the officers during their transportation does not constitute custodial interrogation since it did not involve explicit questioning on the events that had taken place or actions by the police that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response (Ferdico, Fradella, &Totten, 2012). The three exceptions to the Miranda warning requirements are not applied in this instance.

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Lens 2: Neighborhood Association

From the neighborhood association viewpoint, there is an aspect that can be classified as hearsay. Since the security personnel did not find any of the allegedly stolen materials with the suspects, the narratives given by the vendors on how the goods were stolen and how the suspects fled are nothing but hearsays. As such, no hearsay exceptions or exemptions should be applied in this instance. As a result, if the suspects provided a confession, it becomes apparent that they did. A suspect made an inculpatory remark without being coerced in front of the other people, imploring his relative to repay the vendors so that the charges could be dropped. The statement in that context constitutes the unsolicited admission of guilt (Kanovitz, 2015). Since it was not coerced, it should be deemed to have been given freely and voluntarily, and admissible during trial. From the neighborhood association view, it is also apparent that the Miranda rule was correctly applied. The suspects were not interrogated immediately, they were just taken into custody and informed of their rights before the commencement of the custodial interrogation. Just like in the previous instance, there are no exceptions to the Miranda warning requirement that can be applied. The confessions made were voluntary and should be admissible in a court of law.

Lens 3: Suspect’s Relative

From the lens of the suspect’s relative, the statements made by the security personnel and the vendors can be considered hearsay as they are a testimony to the fact. There are, however, no relevant hearsay exemptions or exceptions that are applicable in this instance. Consequently, if the suspect provided a confession, it is evident that he or she did. The statement made by the suspect to the relative and overheard by the police officer was self-incriminating and offered freely and voluntarily in the presence of the law enforcement officer. 

However, it should not be admissible since the Miranda rule was not correctly applied, and there are no exceptions that can be applied in this instance. From the suspect’s relative viewpoint, the suspects were taken into custody at the moment the police arrived where they were seated, and they should have had their Miranda rights read to them right then so that they do not make self-incriminating remarks. Custody, from this perspective, is any form of formal arrest or restriction that deprives one of freedom to a significant extent (Ferdico, Fardella, & Totten, 2012). It is clear that the suspects could not leave at their will. Furthermore, the confessions provided in the car should not be admissible as well because the suspects had not been Mirandized. The police officers may argue that no custodial interrogation took place. However, the courts of law have severally defined, for instance in Rhode Island v. Innis, that custodial interrogation transcends express questioning including its functional equivalent, like the queer conversation the suspects had with the police in the car (Kanovitz, 2015). Since the suspects were in custody by being restricted both at the stage and in the car, and the interrogation essentially took place before the suspects were Mirandized, the confessions should not be admissible at trial.

The aspects that proved the most difficult to answer is the questions from the perspective of the neighborhood association. This is probably because they had minimal interaction with the suspects. Critically, though, the neighborhood association has little or no vested interests in the matter, they simply apprehend the suspects and hand them to the law enforcement officers. The issues of the police officers and the suspects’ relatives, on the other hand, are easier to deal with since the two parties privy to the case are interested in pursuing the matter to the logical conclusion and, consequently, assume clear opposing viewpoints on the issues. The core aspect of the scenario to which the information shared in the textbook could not be sufficiently applied is the psychological deception as a form of soliciting for confession. The textbook effectively covers the issue of violence as a form of coercion. However, on this type of coercion, the text only discusses the psychological pressure induced by threats, undue delays, and promises among others, but does not cover overt and covert deception strategies such as the one used by the police in the car leading the suspects to talk about what had happened making self-incriminatory remarks in the process.

In conclusion, it is evident that there are several ethical dilemmas in determining the admissibility of a confession. The different parties privy to the case often have different viewpoints on the issues including hearsay, confession, and the application of the Miranda rule. Ultimately, it is the finder of fact, be it a jury or a magistrate, who, based on the totality of the circumstance, makes the decision on the admissibility of confession as evidence.

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