In its famous Miranda v. Arizona decision, the Supreme Court made it very easy to invoke the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent: “If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease”.  The current Supreme Court completely reversed this in a 5-4 decision this June.

In this case, Van Chester Thompkins was charged with murder.  In a three hour interrogation, he remained silent except for very occasional responses of “yeah” “no” and “I don’t know”.  One of the “statements” he made during this time frame was that he didn’t like peppermint when one was offered to him, and another was that his chair was hard.  However, at two hours and forty-five minutes into the three hour interrogation Thompkins was asked, “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?”  His response was “Yes”.  The trial court denied his argument that he had not waived his right to remain silent and the statement was involuntary.  The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, but the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the statement was involuntary.  Michigan appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court held that his occasional responses constituted an implied waiver of the right to remain silent since he did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to speak to the police.  This is so even though the prosecution itself conceded that there was no waiver before the point at which he said he prayed for forgiveness two hours and forty-five minutes into the interrogation.  Even the very detective who conducted the interrogation said that none of Thompkins’ responses before this point implicated him in the shooting and that he could only remember Thompkins declining the peppermint and stating that his chair was hard.

As the dissenting opinion pointed out, it would be difficult to imagine a case so closely on point with the Miranda decision.

  • After a two hour interrogation, Ernesto Miranda signed a written confession.
    After a three hour interrogation, Thompkins refused to provide a written confession.
  • Ernesto Miranda’s written confession included a statement that he (supposedly) understood his rights.
    Thompkins refused to sign the Miranda card indicating that his rights had been read to him and that he understood them.

Evidently people being interrogated can’t even decline a peppermint.  Maybe they should make sure they don’t accept one even if they do like peppermints.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 at 6:52 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Speak up if you want to remain silent”

  1. carrie on June 2nd, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    very well written with many good points

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