Can police use your silence against you? Supreme Court to decide.
The Supreme Court is reviewing a case in which a Texas man's silence while voluntarily answering police questions was presented as evidence at trial. His murder conviction was upheld on appeal.
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The prosecutors said that during a 58-minute interview with police, Salinas answered all but one question. At the trial, a police officer told the jury of Salinas’s reaction to being asked the question about the shotgun.Skip to next paragraph
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The officer said he “looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet, bit his lower lip, clinched his hands in his lap, began to tighten up.”
When officers asked a new set of questions, Salinas once again became talkative, they said. The prosecutors added that in his own way Salinas answered the question about the shotgun through his nonverbal conduct. They added that he never invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
The issue has created a sharp rift within the nation’s appellate courts. Among courts ruling that a defendant’s pre-arrest silence may not be used as evidence of guilt are federal appeals courts based in Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Denver, and state supreme courts in Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Courts upholding the use of silence as evidence at trial including federal appeals courts based in New Orleans, Atlanta, Richmond, and St. Louis, and state supreme courts in Texas, Minnesota, Missouri, Maryland, and North Dakota.
The case is Salinas v. Texas (12-246).
The case was one of six appeals that the justices on Friday agreed to decide.
They include a First Amendment challenge examining whether the US government can require private health organizations to adopt a policy in opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking as a condition of receiving federal funding to fight the spread of AIDS.
The groups objected to being forced to embrace a government viewpoint in exchange for receiving funding. They said it violated their First Amendment rights.
A federal judge and a federal appeals court agreed.
The case is US Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International (12-10).