Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

January 23, 2002 - Miranda This

Much to the consternation of French policemen, a common scene is occurring more and more in France. Local gendarmes stop a man to check his vehicle registration. The indignant Frenchman demands his Miranda rights and a lawyer for his defense. When he is informed that he does not have these rights, he is outraged. He knows the law by heart.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided…”

Of course every American knows it by heart. Its on television every night and practically every movie quotes it. But why do the French think they have Miranda rights?

There is a whole generation of French who grew up watching Kojak, Columbo and hundreds of other American programs and movies where policemen speaking French read suspects their Miranda rights. Since American television programs and films are dubbed in French, the viewers assume that the programs and films are taking place in France.

Most Americans are opposed to mollycoddling criminals with things like Miranda rights and somehow it does seem unpatriotic. Everybody ought to cooperate with the police but recent events have shown that Americans will confess to anything even if they are innocent. All it takes is for a policeman to say “You know that it will go easier on you if you confess” to get someone to confess that he shot Lincoln from a grassy knoll in Dallas.

The student living in the hotel next to the World Trade Center confessed three times to being involved in something that he didn’t do. Of course he was kept in solitary confinement for a month which is something akin to torture, but in general confessions come easy. Policemen tell me that people blurt out confessions before they have a chance to ask their names. Next to eyewitness identification, confessions are becoming the most unreliable evidence presented in courtrooms.

But false confessions are not a problem in France. The French know their rights and how to claim them. America has swamped France with its cultural exports and now they can add Miranda to the list.

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January 16, 2002 - Charlotte Observer Interview
January 9, 2002 - Walnut Wine
January 2, 2002 - Sloe Gin
 December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice
December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice
December 19, 2001 - Relais d’Antan
December 12, 2001 - Winter Foods
 December 5, 2001 - Steak and Kidney Pudding
 November 28, 2001 - Pigs III
 November 21, 2001 - Pigs II
 November 14, 2001 - Pigs
 October 31, 2001 - The Ghost of Chateau Chevre
 October 25 - Battle of Poitiers
 August 22, 2001 - Confrerie
 August 15, 2001 - Liberation
 August 8, 2001 - Le Cyclop
 August 1, 2001 - The Finger
July 25, 2001 - La Resistance
July 18, 2001 - System D
July 11, 2001 - The Accident
July 4, 2001 - Ange Pitou
June 27, 2001 - Feu de Saint Jean
June 20, 2001 - Geoffroy Martel
June 13, 2001 - Saint of the Day
June 6, 2001 - Escapade dans le Berry
May 30, 2001 - Learning French
May 23, 2001 - Pete and Manny
May 16, 2001 - Les Journees des Aubepines
May 8, 2001 - Armistice Day
May 2, 2001 - May Day
April 25, 2001 - Les Manouches
April 18, 2001 - Trôo
April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
Archive of Weekly Columns Jan-Apr 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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