June 13 of this year marked a milestone in constitutional law. Fifty years earlier, in 1966, the Supreme Court decided Miranda v. Arizona, requiring officers to notify individuals in police custody of their “Miranda rights,” including their right to a court-appointed lawyer if unable to afford one.
Although controversial at first, the Miranda decision has since become a standard safeguard against government overreaching in the investigation, interrogation and prosecution of alleged criminal conduct.
Thus, it is the height of irony that on the 50th anniversary of Miranda, the Supreme Court chose to issue a decision that guarantees fast-track prosecution of American Indians in federal court by denying them basic protections.
In United States v. Bryant, this nation’s highest court condoned the use of prior “uncounseled” tribal court convictions to charge and convict an Indian as a federal habitual domestic violence offender.