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Washington (AP)-The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to require special treatment for young people under questioning by police, ruling narrowly against a 17-year-old interrogated for two hours without being told of his rights. The June 1 ruling in Yarborough v. Alvarado, No. 02-1684, sets the stage for the court’s consideration this fall of the constitutionality of executing juvenile killers. The justices voted, 5-4, to reinstate a Michael Alvarado’s murder conviction, and said police have no obligation to treat younger suspects differently from adults under the 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, 334 U.S. 436. “The unfortunate result of this decision will be police circumventing the reading of Miranda warnings to children, the very class of persons who need to be informed of their rights the most,” said Alvarado’s lawyer, Tara Allen. Police must give warnings to people who are in custody. Warnings are not required if a suspect isn’t under arrest and talks to police. That’s what police said Alvarado did when his parents brought him to a California police station. The parents were forced to wait outside the interrogation room as their son gave incriminating statements that were used later to convict him of second-degree murder. Police argued that Alvarado could have left the station. Four justices said that because of his youth, he would not have understood that he could have walked out of the questioning. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for his part in a 1995 murder at a shopping mall in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., during an attempted carjacking. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the court has never said that age must be considered in determining whether people are in custody and entitled to be told their rights. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately to add that age may be a factor in some cases. She noted that Alvarado was 17 1/2, an age at which “many can be expected to behave as adults.” Dissenting, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that California courts should have considered Alvarado’s age and inexperience with law enforcement when deciding if he was in custody. “Unless someone is prepared to pretend that Alvarado is someone he is not, a middle-aged gentleman, well-versed in police practices, it seems to me clear that the California courts made a serious mistake,” Breyer wrote. His dissent was joined by justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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