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article imageOp-Ed: The rape of Miranda – double killer seeks retrial on technicality

By Alexander Baron     Jul 1, 2011 in Crime
A man who murdered his wife and daughter is appealing his conviction on the grounds that the police had no right to find their bodies. Sadly, this sort of nonsense is nothing new.
Neil Entwistle was born at Nottingham, graduated from the University of York with a Masters Degree in Electronic Engineering, then flew off to the States with his sweetheart to live the American dream. Within three years, that dream had become a nightmare of his own making; on June 25, 2008 he was convicted of the January 2006 murder of his beautiful young wife and their nine month old baby daughter.
There had been no murder in the town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts for eleven years, which may account for the apparently inept way the local police investigated this shocking double murder. When they arrived at the crime scene – for the second time - they found Rachel Entwistle in bed with baby Lilian, both obviously dead. However, they didn’t realise they had both been shot, and put their deaths down to carbon monoxide poisoning or some such.
They were alerted initially by a friend of Rachel’s who turned up at her home by prior arrangement only to be greeted by an empty house. When they entered for the first time they found only some crumpled bed linen. In spite of this Keystone Kops type investigation, it was eventually established that Rachel had been shot twice, and that one of these bullets had also killed the baby. Meanwhile, Neil Entwistle turned up at his parents’ home in England, which is where the American legal authorities located him by telephone.
Unbelievably, the British police received no formal request for assistance until the following month, after which he was arrested and extradited. Entwistle did not testify at his trial; his defence was that his wife had murdered their daughter and committed suicide.
Is it plausible that a man finds his wife and daughter shot dead in an apparent murder-suicide and then jets off to his parents’ home on the other side of the Atlantic? People who are faced with traumatic situations often act in bizarre ways. A rape victim may cooperate with her rapist; people who are caught up in earthquakes or explosions may exhibit extreme heroism or total lethargy, and so on. So yes, Entwistle’s behaviour although not “text book” could be construed as the response of an innocent man, especially if he suffered from some psychological impairment. There was though the little matter of forensics, and the fact that while apparently a highly paid computer professional he was living off credit as well as engaging in all manner of dubious behaviour on-line, a combination of whacky money making schemes and bizarre sex fantasies. It may have been that his original plan was to follow the murder of his wife and baby daughter with his own suicide; if so, he lacked a spine as well as a heart, and where he might have deserved our pity he now deserves only our contempt.
In spite of his Masters Degree, beautiful young wife, and a seemingly bright future, Entwistle was one of life’s losers. If he’d been a stick of rock, he would have had the word failure carved through his middle.
Although the case against him at trial was overwhelming, his parents stood by him – and still do - insisting that Rachel had indeed committed suicide. The insensitivity even callousness they showed towards Rachel’s family beggars belief. Back in Britain, they reported their local paper to the Press Complaints Commission, who treated their whining with the contempt it deserved. Like his parents, Entwistle’s lawyers have shown the same intransigence to hard facts.
Now, three years after his conviction, Neil Entwistle wants a new trial. And the grounds for this are...
“He alleges that in the absence of a warrant, evidence seized from the house was taken illegally and should not have been usable during his trial.”
Not that the police planted evidence, not that they bribed a snitch to manufacture a confession, not that he was tortured into confessing, but that the police seized evidence illegally and that this should have been excluded at trial.
Among other things, their despicable behaviour violated his rights under the 4th Amendment. For those with a certain amount of legal nous, the phrase Mapp v Ohio will spring to mind. Along with Escobedo v Illinois and Miranda v Arizona, this is one of the most important cases in US criminal procedure. Of the three, the Miranda warning is certainly the most well known, even in the UK where legal protection is based on statute rather than case law; this is due mostly to the large number of American cops ‘n’ hookers TV series we have imported over the years.
These three decisions of the United States Supreme Court are amongst the most important protections for the citizen against the arbitrary use and abuse of state power. In Britain, there is a similar protection, the Police And Criminal Evidence Act, 1984, known universally as PACE. Before the PACE statute there was something called the Judges’ Rules, which were not statutory and were not even rules in any meaningful sense.
These administrative directions had no legal force; four such rules had been stated by 1912, and were increased to 9 by 1918. Under pressure from civil liberties groups, and the few MPs who realised the police are never to be trusted, suspects who were investigated, arrested, detained, questioned by the police...were finally granted statutory protection.
Both the police caution in Britain and the Miranda warning in the United States have a double function; they serve to advise a person arrested that he has the right not to say anything, and they demonstrate the good faith of the arresting officer if this right is waived. People are often arrested in traumatic circumstances or when they are vulnerable to suggestion, caprice, or their own darker selves. A man who is drunk, under the influence of drugs or simply angry when arrested may say something that will have profound and life altering consequences for him, so it may be in his best interest to keep his counsel until he can obtain legal advice in accordance with PACE in Britain or Escobedo in the United States.
To take some real life examples, in July 1997, a young US Navy wife was raped and murdered in her home by Omar Ballard. Seven other suspects, all serving or former seamen, were also charged with the crime, and four of them confessed in short order. All four were eventually cleared after spending many years in gaol.
In September 2005, Lewis Sproston was arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend. He admitted to the police that he had argued with her literally minutes before she was murdered – although he didn’t realise at the time that she was dead. The police were convinced they had their man, but fortunately he was soon cleared by forensic evidence.
On Christmas Day 2010, the body of a missing woman was found dumped in a West Country lane; her landlord was arrested and grilled for three days. Apparently, this one, somewhat elderly retired schoolteacher, was made of sterner stuff than the cream of the American Navy. Sometime after he was released, another man was arrested for and confessed to the killing.
The Supreme Court rulings in Mapp v Ohio, Escobedo v Illinois and Miranda v Arizona were never intended to hamstring criminal investigations, so when lawyers for Neil Entwistle argue that “in the absence of a warrant, evidence seized from the house was taken illegally and should not have been usable during his trial”, they are clutching at straws. Clearly it is not desirable for the police to have the power to enter anyone’s home on a whim; if they had that power, America would not be the land of the free and the home of the brave but a police state. Nor is it desirable for them to be permitted to enter people’s homes and other premises in order to plant evidence, as can happen when the police feel they are above the law. But the police did not enter the Entwistle house in order to seize evidence or to plant evidence, they did not really enter it as police officers at all but as concerned citizens who had been alerted by a friend of the murdered woman. For all they knew, Rachel could have been lying on the bathroom floor in a diabetic coma with a distressed baby starving in her crib.
During the ongoing trial of Casey Anthony, one of the stunts pulled by Jose Baez was to claim his client had not been read her Miranda rights by Detective Melich. This elicited the response that Tot Mom was not at that point a suspect in the murder of her daughter. Melich is no fool, and clearly realised it was a distinct possibility that Caylee Anthony had been harmed or even killed by her mother, but his prime concern at that moment was to locate the child, whom he had to assume was alive. Children and others are reported missing by concerned parents, relatives and friends every day; are the police supposed to administer a Miranda warning or in Britain a police caution to every concerned parent? What would the public make of such behaviour?
Neil Entwistle and his lawyers are whistling in the dark; the Massachusetts State Court will hear his application as a matter of courtesy, but that is as far as it will get.
Another double murderer who has tried to invoke Miranda in order to appeal a hopeless case is Susan Smith. On October 25, 1994, Smith claimed a black man carjacked her, forcing her out of the vehicle at gunpoint and driving off with her two young boys on the back seat. On November 3, she led the authorities to where she had dumped her car in eighteen feet of water.
After a decade and a half in gaol she decided that her “Amanda Rights” were violated, and that she had been too, by her husband who had subjected her to spousal abuse. Indeed. Smith got nowhere with her appeal; again, what are the police to do when a mother makes a 911 call – advise her she need not say anything?
Smith avoided the death penalty; Entwistle never faced it; Casey Anthony is facing it right now. Whatever the outcome of the Anthony case, both Smith and Entwistle should be thankful that their lives have been spared by a jury and by a judicial system that at times bends over backwards to protect the guilty, even when the victims of the perpetrators are as innocent as children, or in Entwistle’s case, as a nine month old baby.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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