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June 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Supreme Court Rules Silence is Not Golden With Miranda Rights

Justice Kennedy wrote majority opinion

Justice Kennedy wrote majority opinion

By Glynnesha Taylor

WASHINGTON — Sometimes silence is not so golden — at least according to the Supreme Court.

In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that suspects must speak up and say they want to remain silent to get protections under the Miranda Warning during interrogations.

In other words, simply shutting up for a while just won’t do it.

The ruling stems from a Michigan case in which a murder suspect Van Chester Thompkins remained silent for three hours during a police interrogation before implicating himself in a murder.

A police officer asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” and Thompkins answered yes. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda rights to remain silent by remaining silent.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed and threw out his confession and conviction. The Supreme Court justices — at least the majority — didn’t agree and overturned the lower court ruling.

Justice Sotomayer wrote minority opinion

Justice Sotomayer wrote minority opinion

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court’s conservative, said that staying silent wasn’t enough, according to an Associated Press report.

“Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police,” Kennedy said. “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.”

The Court’s newest member, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent for the court’s liberals, wrote that the majority decision “turns Miranda upside down.”

“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent – which counter-intuitively, 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.”

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