MERCERVILLE — Gallia County justice officials gathered Thursday morning at South Gallia High School to discuss Miranda Rights and the judicial process with juniors in the school library as part of “Law Day.”
Gallia County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning and Gallipolis Municipal Court Judge Margaret Evans discussed the importance of knowing how legal and criminal justice procedures work. Each official introduced themselves and gave a brief overview of what their individual offices do in Gallia County before offering more detailed explanations, playing off each other’s comments.
Browning started the discussion by announcing what often happens when an individual encounters law enforcement and what can be expected when one is arrested.
Browning told students that in 87 counties, the sheriff is an elected position. However, in Cuyahoga County, the sheriff is appointed by a board of officials. Otherwise, they share the same duties. Warrants and court papers are served by the sheriff’s office as the main arm of county law enforcement. Locally, sheriffs are the chief law enforcement officers. At the state level, the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer in Ohio.
Browning asked students if they understood what Miranda Rights were. One student replied with the classic “you have the right to remain silent” phrase, as well as the rest of the typical Miranda readings, with near perfect accuracy. Browning explained how officers often recite and go over Miranda Rights and the paperwork involved with the process.
Adkins explained the process of discovery with students as well as the necessity of hard evidence being gathered by law officials to help in putting away law offenders. Adkins said some of the best cases for a prosecutor’s office are when a suspect has been read their rights and confesses to a crime, or when video or DNA evidence has been gathered to reinforce the prosecution’s case. Adkins also explained the process of a defense attorney attempting to get evidence suppressed.
“Those are the three friends of the prosecutor,” Adkins said.
Both Adkins and Browning explained the necessity of Miranda Rights in the protection of the public’s interest as well as attempting to hold criminal proceedings accountable.
A brief video was shown to the students about the origin of Miranda Rights and how they originated with the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Locally, I get the final say (in a case) to determine whether things were done right,” Evans said. “There are a lot of different steps along the way. First of all, one needs to determine whether Miranda was required at all. There is a level called investigatory detention, which is not yet in custody. The law still gives law enforcement the right to do their jobs and talk to people to try to figure out whether something is true or not. If we believe Miranda was necessary (in a case), then we must determine whether it was administered properly.”
Evans eventually walked students through a case situation where officers had picked up an individual to speak with. Students were asked to determine whether or not they believed the person had been improperly taken into custody due to the circumstances of the case and whether their rights had been violated.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, ext. 2103.