Supreme Court: Suspects must assert Miranda right to remain silent
The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that criminal suspects must clearly state that they don't want to talk with police to exercise their Miranda rights. Silence during interrogation is not enough.
Criminal suspects may not invoke their right remain silent by simply remaining silent during a police interrogation, the US Supreme Court declared on Tuesday.Skip to next paragraph
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In a 5-to-4 decision, the high court said that a suspect in police custody must make a simple, unambiguous statement that he or she wants to remain silent or that he or she does not want to talk to the police.
Without such a verbal declaration, any incriminating admissions made after a suspect has been given Miranda warnings about the right to remain silent may be used against that suspect in court, the high court said.
“A suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings, and has not invoked his Miranda rights, waives the right to remain silent by making an uncoerced statement to the police,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling marked “a substantial retreat from the protection against compelled self-incrimination” dating from the Supreme Court’s landmark 1966 opinion in Miranda v. Arizona.
“The court today creates an unworkable and conflicting set of presumptions that will undermine Miranda’s goal of providing ‘concrete constitutional guidelines for law enforcement agencies and courts to follow,’ “ Justice Sotomayor wrote.
Miranda v. Arizona is the decision that created the requirement that police advise suspects of their right to remain silent and to the assistance of a lawyer. The requirement is designed to prevent police from attempting to solve crimes by beating or otherwise coercing confessions from suspects. It is also designed to ensure that any statements made in police custody are voluntary and, thus, more reliable as evidence.
Silent during questioning ... mostly
Tuesday’s decision comes via an appeal stemming from a fatal shooting in January 2000 outside a shopping mall in Southfield, Mich.
Van Chester Thompkins was arrested about a year later and interrogated by police. During the questioning, Mr. Thompkins was advised of his Miranda rights and given a form to sign. He refused to sign it.
Nonetheless, police say Thompkins verbally confirmed that he understood his rights. Thompkins disputes this.
Thompkins remained largely silent during most of a three-hour interrogation. About 2 hours and 45 minutes into the questioning, one of the officers asked Thompkins if he believed in God. When he answered, “Yes,” police say his eyes welled up with tears.
The officer then asked: “Do you pray to God?”
The suspect answered: “Yes.”
Another question: “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?”
Thompkins answered: “Yes."
Thompkins was charged with first-degree murder. At trial, his lawyer tried to keep the incriminating statement out of the trial by arguing that his client had invoked his right to remain silent.