Supreme Court rules suspects must speak to remain silent
According to a Village Voice blog, today’s Supreme Court decision should be forever nicknamed “Miranda Schmiranda: Put Up or Shut Up, But If You Shut Up, Tell Us That You’re Shutting Up.”
Easily the most exciting decision today! In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that in order to invoke your Miranda Rights, or specifically, the right to remain silent under interrogation, you actually have to make a point of noting that you’re invoking your Miranda Rights. This guy, Van Chester Thompkins, was interrogated and stayed (mostly) silent through the interrogation. He was convicted for murder. Here’s the problem:
The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” Thompkins said, “Yes.”
But Thompkins and his lawyer argued that he had invoked his Miranda Rights by being (mostly) uncommunicative, and that cops had violated the protections afforded to Thompkins by them. And the Supreme Court just sided with law enforcement in Michigan, where Thompkins was busted, noting that if Thompkins wanted to invoke his right to stay silent, he needed to say so. Justice Sotomayor is PISSED, however, noting that this ruling “Turns Miranda upside down.”
“A Michigan man will continue serving a life sentence for murder after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that he gave up his rights against self-incrimination because he did not explicitly tell police he wanted to remain silent after his arrest,” Paul Egan reports for The Detroit News.
The 5-4 decision overturns a ruling by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and reinstates Van Chester Thompkins’ conviction for a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield.
Detroit attorney Elizabeth Jacobs, who argued the case for Thompkins, 33, in front of the Supreme Court in March, said the ruling is “very disappointing.” The court is “diminishing Miranda rights as we know them,” Jacobs said.
“The vote in the Miranda case was 5-4 along ideological lines as the court’s conservatives put limits on the rights of suspects,” The Wall Street Journal notes.
In Tuesday’s decision, the court ruled that an ambiguous situation would be treated in favor of the police.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a dissent longer than the majority opinion, argued that the majority misread precedent and reached beyond the facts of the case to impose a tough new rule against defendants.
“Today’s decision turns Miranda upside down,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silentÃ¢â‚¬â€which, counterintuitively, requires them to speak.”