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Supreme Court Rules a Suspect’s Silence during Police Interrogation Can be Used against Him

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | June 20, 2013

Remaining silent during questioning by police can be used against a person in a court of law, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (pdf) in a startling reinterpretation of Fifth Amendment rights.

A narrow majority ruled 5-to-4 in Salinas v. Texas that it was permissible for authorities to present at Genovevo Salinas’ trial that he refused to answer the police’s questions about a fatal shooting because Salinas had already answered some questions prior to being arrested and read his Miranda rights.

Salinas voluntarily spoke with police about the December 1992 murders of Juan and Hector Garza in Houston. But when asked whether the shells found at the scene would match a shotgun found in his home, the defendant went silent and refused to answer.

A ballistics test subsequently showed the shells were fired from Salinas’ weapon. Prosecutors used the fact that Salinas did not respond to the question about the shells, and appeared nervous, as a further argument to convince jurors of his guilt. Also presented was testimony from a witness who said Salinas took credit for the killings.

Salinas’s first trial ended in a mistrial. A second trial resulted in his being convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

He later appealed, arguing that prosecutors had violated his right to stay silent. Salinas’ silence as evidence of possible guilt should have been omitted from the trial, claimed his lawyer, citing the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.

Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed with Salinas’ argument and validated his conviction. Their ruling states that Salinas would have to have voluntarily invoked his Fifth Amendment right in order to be protected by it.

Critics claim that this ruling damages the spirit of the Fifth Amendment and will hereafter give law enforcement an incentive to delay the reading of Miranda warnings—the right to remain silent—to criminal suspects.

June 20, 2013 - Posted by | Civil Liberties | , ,

1 Comment

  1. OK — for starters, these quacks on the SCOTUS are nothing more than crooked lawyers with robes on. Anybody who takes their decisions too seriously needs help. As a matter of fact, any country that would allow 9 robed, UNELECTED mental vacancies to render decisions like this is probably a goner, anyway. That being said . . .

    I’m sick and tired of reading and hearing tripe about “self-incrimination” in the Fifth Amendment. Read the damn thing. It says you can’t be compelled to be a witness against yourself, and it doesn’t mention “incrimination” or “self-incrimination” at all. It means that you don’t have to talk to cops, WHETHER OR NOT the information might incriminate you. Got that? It’s only been around for 220 years; I wouldn’t want anybody to rush into anything here. For crying out loud, it’s in black and white. Maybe if it was posted on Twitter or Facebook, the texting, thumb-poking chimpanzees would get it.

    Last but not least, how can not saying anything be used against you? What are they going to say? Something like: “Well, they wouldn’t talk to us, so that’s proof that they’re guilty?” If it comes to that, you can stick a fork in this clown kingdom.

    Like

    Comment by Big M | June 20, 2013


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