Supreme Court lets stand ruling in self-incrimination case
The Supreme Court Monday declined to take a case that explored when police interrogations violate the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
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“Use of the coerced statements at trial is not necessary for Paul to assert a claim for violation of his rights under the Fifth Amendment,” the appeals court said. Instead, the panel interpreted the constitutional protection more broadly, finding that it covers any coerced statement used in a criminal case.Skip to next paragraph
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Specifically, the court cited three non-trial instances when it would apply: “When it has been relied upon to file formal charges against the declarant, to determine judicially that the prosecution may proceed, and to determine pretrial custody status.”
Lawyers for Jensen had asked the Supreme Court to take up the case and reverse the Ninth Circuit decision. They argue that the Fifth Amendment should only apply to statements at trial.
Judges in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Circuits in Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., and New Orleans, have upheld this view. But judges in the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, have held the broader view that the protections apply whenever the coerced statement is used in a case in which charges are filed.
In declining to hear the Stoot case, the high court’s action lets the Ninth Circuit ruling stand, but it leaves intact the split among the circuits on the issue.
A chill on interrogations?
Seattle Lawyer Robert Christie warned in his brief on behalf of Jensen that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling would have a chilling effect on law enforcement officers preparing to conduct interrogations. He said the legal precedent would make officials reluctant to conduct interrogations for fear of being sued later.
Lawyers for Paul and his parents said in their own brief that the Ninth Circuit had properly analyzed the issue. Lawyer Michael Andrews of Everett said police officers who follow the rules have nothing to fear, but those who violate them should be held accountable.
The Fifth Amendment protections may be enforced not only through the suppression of coerced statements, he wrote, but also through civil lawsuits seeking compensation for violations of individual rights.
“The result of [Jensen’s] position is that an individual may be subject to all of the evils of intentional psychological coercion and deprivation of human dignity … and not have any remedy for that violation other than mere suppression,” Mr. Andrews wrote.