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Mid-Missouri retirees learn about law

A police officer approaches a man suspected of burglary and asks him to come to the police station for questioning. The man speaks with officers and is sent home. He is later arrested and convicted, with his earlier questioning used as evidence. But the man moves to suppress the interview, arguing that he was not read his Miranda rights before being interviewed. Should the evidence be considered in court?

That was the question members of the United States Supreme Court faced in 1977, when Oregon v. Mathiason came before them. It was also the question posed by Millie Aulbur, director of Citizenship Education at The Missouri Bar, to dozens of senior citizens during a Learning in Retirement course March 28 at Lincoln University.

After attendees deliberated the facts of the situation and asked for additional details, Aulbur revealed the Supreme Court’s decision: the man was free to leave during any point in the interview, and Miranda rights, therefore, did not apply.

Oregon v. Mathiason was just one of many cases Aulbur dissected with attendees during a four-part lecture series on the U.S. Bill of Rights. Over the course of four weeks, Aulbur and Charlie Hinderliter, manager of advocacy outreach for the St. Louis Regional Chamber, addressed the Constitution, the 14th Amendment and the rights of the accused in criminal matters, among other topics. The sessions proved to be quite popular.

Aulbur’s detailed discussion of specific court cases, like Missouri v. Seibert, was of particular interest to attendee Arlene Stayton.

From participating in book clubs to checking her smartphone for news updates, Stayton, now retired from the U.S. Army, says she works hard to stay aware of current events. Learning in Retirement is a chance for her to meet and learn with others her age – and she enjoys it enough that she makes the 30-minute drive from Tipton to attend.

“I listen to the candidates who are running for president and I want to be an informed citizen when it comes to voting,” Stayton said. “So many of my acquaintances haven’t a clue about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. … I just like to keep learning and keep abreast of things.”

Attendee Bob Maxwell agreed that the Learning in Retirement courses are a great opportunity to continue his education.

“I just enjoy the different information,” Maxwell said. “I didn’t realize there was such conflict on a lot of this stuff. It makes me think maybe I should have had a different profession through life – it would have been a lot more interesting.”

The sessions were far from one-sided conversation. Throughout the courses, Aulbur took questions from the audience, and she says that teaching at Learning in Retirement is different from other classroom scenarios.

“These aren’t students who are only here because they have to be,” Aulbur said. “These are citizens who want to be learning and have wonderful things to contribute.”

While classes on the Bill of Rights have concluded, more opportunities for learning will be available at Lincoln University. For more information, go to lincolnu.edu/web/learning-in-retirement/home.

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