The Supposed Strength of Hopelessness: The Supreme Court Further Undermines Miranda in Howes v. Fields

By George M. Dery III

Volume 40.1

* Professor, California State University Fullerton, Division of Politics, Administration, and Justice; Former Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles, California; J.D., 1987, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, California; B.A., 1983, University of California Los Angeles.

Abstract

This Article analyzes Howes v. Fields, in which the Supreme Court ruled that imprisonment alone was not enough to constitute Miranda custody.  Fields provided three grounds to distinguish prisoners from mere suspects: (1) inmates serving in prison did not suffer the shock that often accompanied arrest, (2) prisoners were unlikely to be lured into speaking by any longing for a prompt release, and (3) inmates were aware that police probably lacked the authority to shorten their current prison term.  This article asserts that these rationales create their own concerns.  Fields’s consideration of the shock of arrest opened Miranda up to subjective inquiries about inmates’ emotional states, a subject prohibited as beyond Miranda’s objective analysis.  By arguing that inmates were stronger for understanding that prompt release was beyond their hopes, Fields turned Miranda on its head by deeming hopelessness an asset.  Finally, focusing on law enforcement’s power to shorten the sentence that a prisoner was currently serving blinded the Court to an inmate’s broader liberty interests.  This article also aims to analyze the potential impact that possible confusion about these issues might have on police and courts.

Introduction

Few would willingly choose to undergo the ordeal of custodial interrogation, a situation so dire that the Court itself has deemed it “destructive of human dignity.”[1]  Police have designed custodial interrogation to create an atmosphere of police domination where a person, held incommunicado, will be less “keenly aware of his rights.”[2]  However awful, most would choose this fate over the prospect of serving time behind bars, an environment so hostile that it is fraught with potential violence.[3]  The Supreme Court, on the other hand, has decided that prison life is not so bad. It has even determined that release back into the general prison population can offer a “break” from custodial interrogation.[4]  Now, in Howes v. Fields, the Court has explicitly determined that “imprisonment, without more, is not enough to constitute Miranda custody.”[5]

To support this conclusion, Fields offered “three strong grounds” which aimed to distinguish prisoners from suspects undergoing custodial interrogation.[6]  Fields asserted that inmates serving in prison did not suffer the shock that often accompanied arrest, were unlikely to be lured into speaking by a “longing for prompt release,” and were aware that the police probably lacked the authority to shorten their current prison term.[7]  The Court believed these three grounds explained a prisoner’s superior position to that of a mere suspect speaking to police.[8]  Yet Fields’s rationales create their own concerns.  Fields’s consideration of the shock of arrest could open Miranda up to subjective inquiries about inmates’ emotional states, a subject the Court has previously prohibited as beyond Miranda’s objective analysis.[9]  By urging that inmates were stronger for understanding that prompt release was beyond their hopes,[10]  Fields turned Miranda on its head by deeming hopelessness an asset.[11]  Moreover, focusing on law enforcement’s power to shorten the sentence a prisoner was currently serving blinkered the Court’s view of an inmate’s other liberty interests.[12]  Finally, in an attempt to counter a contention advanced by the Court of Appeals that questioning prisoners in private might implicate Miranda, Fields painted a stark picture of the physical dangers involved in prison life.[13]  The Court’s unflinching assessment of the atmosphere created by those who reside in prison undermined its own conclusions in previous case law.[14]

In Part II, this Article reviews the evolving definition of Miranda custody to establish background for further analysis. Part III critically examines Fields’s ruling and reasoning, while Part IV considers the implications of this case on Miranda doctrine.


[1].Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 457 (1966).  Miranda sought to preserve a person’s Fifth Amendment rights while he or she was being subjected to custodial interrogation.  The Fifth Amendment provides in part: “No person shall . . . be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself . . . .”  U.S. Const. amend. V.

[2].Miranda, 384 U.S. at 445, 449.

[3].Howes v. Fields, 132 S. Ct. 1181, 1191–92 (2012).

[4].See infra notes 112–19 and accompanying text.  In Maryland v. Shatzer, the Court opined, “[W]e think lawful imprisonment imposed upon conviction of a crime does not create the coercive pressures identified in Miranda.”  Maryland v. Shatzer, 130 S. Ct. 1213, 1224 (2010).  The Court concluded, “The ‘inherently compelling pressures’ of custodial interrogation ended when [the suspect] returned to his normal life.”  Id. at 1225.

[5].Fields, 132 S. Ct. at 1191.

[6].Id.

[7].Id.

[8].Id.

[9].Id.

[10].Id.

[11].See infra Part IV.B; see also Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 467 (1966) (“[W]ithout proper safeguards the process of in-custody interrogation of persons suspected or accused of crime contains inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual’s will to resist and to compel him to speak where he would not otherwise do so freely.”).

[12].Fields, 132 S. Ct. at 1191.

[13].Id. at 1191–92.

[14].See infra Part IV.A–B; Maryland v. Shatzer, 130 S. Ct. 1213, 1224 (2010) (“Interrogated suspects who have previously been convicted of crime live in prison.  When they are released back into the general prison population, they return to their accustomed surroundings and daily routine—they regain the degree of control they had over their lives prior to the interrogation.  Sentenced prisoners, in contrast to the Miranda paradigm, are not isolated with their accusers.  They live among other inmates, guards, and workers, and often can receive visitors and communicate with people on the outside by mail or telephone.”).

“Ag-Gag” Legislation and Public Choice Theory: Maintaining a Diffuse Public by Limiting Information

By Jessica Pitts*

Volume 40.1

*The University of Texas School of Law, J.D. expected 2013; B.A., University of Colorado, 2010.  I would like to thank my brother for inspiring me to be a voice for animals, and my husband for his unwavering support.

I.  Introduction

Rolling hills, meandering blue streams, fresh air and sunlight.[1]  A quick death that minimizes pain.[2]  Wholesome and nutritious food for our families.[3]  Although these are the pictures many Americans imagine about meat and where it comes from, it could not be further from the truth.  This misinformed belief is perpetuated by the companies that sell meat products, by state legislatures aiming to criminalize the distribution of information about conditions on factory farms,[4] and by the federal government, which labels the collection and dissemination of this information as “terrorism.”[5]  Part II of this note examines existing and proposed “Ag-Gag” legislation: laws prohibiting the acquisition and, more often, the distribution of information about factory farms.  Part III discusses this legislation through the lens of Public Choice Theory, concluding that such legislation is an industry-supported effort to maintain the status quo and that limiting information serves only to intensify the public choice problem by inhibiting people’s ability to make informed choices as both consumers and voters.


[1].For example, see California’s “Happy Cows” campaign, depicting pastoral landscapes and small family-farming operations.  Happy Cows TV, Real California Milk,, http://www.realcaliforniamilk.com/advertising/happy-cows-spots/ (last visited Sept. 22, 2012).  In People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Cal. Milk Producers Advisory Bd., PETA sued the Board claiming its “Happy Cows” advertising campaign was false and deceptive.  22 Cal. Rptr. 3d 900, 901 (Cal. Ct. App. 2005).  The court dismissed the case because the Board is a government entity not subject to California’s Unfair Business Practices Act, but the court left open whether a different result might have been reached had the campaign come from a private company instead of a governmental entity.  Id. at 905–08.

[2].Despite people’s expectation that animal husbandry practices in raising and slaughtering livestock are humane, standard practices are often not humane.  See, e.g., N.J. Soc’y for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. N.J. Dep’t of Agric., 955 A.2d 886 (N.J. 2008) (holding that the Department of Agriculture failed in its obligation to enact regulations to ensure the “humane” treatment of animals when it allowed for a “routine husbandry practices” exception, when routine animal husbandry practices such as tail docking are inhumane).  See Jones v. Butz, 374 F. Supp. 1284, 1285–86, 1289–92 (S.D.N.Y. 1974), for a description of slaughtering techniques comparing Kosher and traditional slaughter methods.

[3].The nutritional benefit of meat is controversial.  See, e.g., Physicians Comm. for Responsible Med. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 13 Cal. Rptr. 3d 926, 928 (Cal. Ct. App. 2004) (arguing that Tyson’s advertising campaigns representing that its chicken is “heart healthy” and “all-natural” were false and deceptive because “‘the majority of Tyson chicken products contain substantial levels of fat and cholesterol, the consumption of which will not only fail to reduce the risk of heart disease, but is actually likely to increase such risk.’”).  Indeed, consumption of meat can cause serious illness and even death. See, e.g., Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7,Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (Jan. 6 2012), http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2010/0105.html (describing a multistate outbreak of E. coli resulting in nine hospitalizations); Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Ground Beef, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (Feb. 1, 2012), http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium-groundbeef/020112/index.html (describing a seven-state salmonella outbreak); see also Rep. Eshoo’s introduction of the Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction and Enforcement Act (“Kevin’s Law”), 2005 Cong U.S. HR 3160, describing how “Kevin’s Law is named in memory of 2 1/2 -year-old Kevin Kowalcyk, who died so tragically in 2001 after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  Kevin’s untimely death was agonizing and brutal.  No child, no person should experience the pain that Kevin did, and no family should have to bear witness to a loved one suffering in the way that Kevin did.”  Eshoo Introduces ‘Kevin’s Law’, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (June 30, 2005), http://eshoo.house.gov/index.php?option=comcontent&task=view& id=104.

[4].See, e.g., Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1827 (West 2011); N.D. Cent. Code ann. § 12.1-21.1-02 (West 2011); Mont. Code Ann. § 81-30-103 (West 2011); Iowa Code Ann. § 717A.3A (West 2012); Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112 (West 2012).

[5].Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. § 43 (2006).