WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that police officers may not be sued under a federal civil rights law for failing to administer the familiar warning required by the court’s 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona. The vote was 6 to 3, with the justices dividing along ideological lines.
In a second case, the court ruled that a death row inmate in Georgia could invoke the same civil rights law in seeking to be executed by firing squad rather than lethal injection. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joining the court’s three liberal members to form a majority.
The case on Miranda warnings illustrated the contested status of the decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the ruling had announced something less than a constitutional right.
The case, Vega v. Tekoh, No. 21-499, was brought by Terence B. Tekoh, a hospital attendant who was accused of sexually abusing an immobilized patient receiving an emergency M.R.I. scan. Mr. Tekoh was questioned at length by Carlos Vega, a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles.
The two men offered differing accounts of the nature of the questioning, but there was no dispute that Mr. Vega did not give the Miranda warning, that Mr. Tekoh signed a confession admitting to the assault, that a state trial judge admitted his confession into evidence or that a jury acquitted him.
Mr. Tekoh then filed a lawsuit against Mr. Vega under the civil rights law, known as Section 1983, which allows citizens to sue state officials, including police officers, over violations of constitutional rights.
Justice Alito wrote that the remedy for a violation of the Miranda decision was exclusion of defendants’ statements at their criminal trials. The…