SCOTUS strikes again! Limits Miranda rights
In another 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court has further limited Constitutionally granted rights by ruling that Miranda warnings must result in a suspect affirmatively informing police that they wish to remain silent, have an attorney present, etc., in order for the 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination to activate.
The ruling comes in a case where a suspected murderer, who received his Miranda warnings, stayed silent through questioning without ever affirmatively stating that he did not wish to speak. After a couple of hours of questioning, where the suspect either said nothing or offered very vague responses such as “yes”, “no”, and “I don’t know”, the police asked the man if he had prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down.” The suspect responded, “Yes.”
That statement was ruled admissible in the trial as an admission of guilt and the man was convicted of murder.
The defendant challenged the conviction, arguing that he had invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by actually remaining silent. Therefore, anything he said should be inadmissible as the police should have stopped asking him questions. The appellate court agreed with the defendant and tossed out the conviction on the basis that his rights had been violated.
Today, the Supremes disagreed.
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said,
Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police. Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his ‘right to cut off questioning.’ Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.
Via Huffington Post
Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion –
Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent – which counterintuitively, requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”
Via Huffington Post
This new ruling puts the onus on the accused to understand that they have an obligation to clearly verbalize their desire not to speak when accused or be presumed to have waived their right not to incriminate themselves.
For those of who find this to be a step forward in reigning in what many believe to be overprotection of the criminal class in the United States, you might want to give some additional thought to this. Consider what could happen to those who might very well be innocent of a crime but do not understand –or are not capable of understanding – this requirement at the precise moment when they are terrified by their circumstances.
Essentially, the Supreme Court has given a legal leg up to the professional criminal who knows the rules of the game and severely damaged the rights of those who are most in need of our Constitutional protections.
So, here’s the next question – will police departments across the country add a sentence to their Miranda readings that inform the suspect that they must affirmatively answer or waive their rights or are suspects on their own?