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Miranda Warning Upside Down

  • Date Submitted: 07/17/2010 09:28 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56.5 
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A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 1, 2010 improved prosecutors’ ability to assert that suspect waived his right to remain silent, even when he did not say so.
The 5-4 decision upholds the Michigan murder conviction of a man, Van Chester Thompkins, who sat silent throughout most of a three-hour interrogation by police. In this case, Thompkins had his rights read, repeated them out loud, but had never signed an offered waiver of the right, nor said he was going to talk or that he wanted the police to stop questioning. It was ruled then, that he waived his right to remain silent when he answered a question two hours and 45 minutes into interrogation. A police detective at that point asked, “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Thompkins answered, “Yes” and looked away. Thompkins was then convicted of murdering Samuel Morris outside a mall in Southfield, Michigan. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said that Thompkins's prolonged silence ‘offered a clear and unequivocal message to the officers: Thompkins did not wish to waive his rights’ “(Barnes).
The Miranda warning (1966 Miranda v. Arizona) — which protects suspects by providing them the right to remain silent — has been one of the court’s best-known creations in the American culture. Yet, nowadays, it remains controversial whether terrorism suspects should be given the same rights.
On the case mentioned in the article, “‘Where the prosecution shows that a Miranda warning was given and that it was understood by the accused, an accused's uncoerced statement establishes an implied waiver of the right to remain silent,’ Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority (Barnes). “Today’s decision turns Miranda upside down,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent. “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which, counter-intuitively, requires them to speak.” In other words, now, the Silent Right must be invoked explicitly to force...


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