Supreme Court: You Still Have the Right to Remain Silent…

Supreme Court: You Still Have the Right to Remain Silent…

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…Just Let Us Know

By Madison J. Gray

As we all know from numerous TV police dramas, when you are arrested, law enforcement officers are required to tell you the following:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

But in the most illogical move since gleefully handing over the 2000 presidential election to the loser, the Supreme Court has decided by five votes to four that if you want to have these rights invoked, you have to actually tell the cops that you wish to remain silent.

The decision that the individual must explicitly tell police that he or she wants to stay silent is the result of a case – Berghuis v. Thompkins – in which a man was arrested for a January 2000 murder which took place in surburban Detroit. The suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained silent well into his interrogation until a detective asked him if he believed in God to which Thompkins replied “yes.” The detective then asked: “Did you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Thompkins replied with another “yes”, essentially implicating himself in the crime. This led to his conviction and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

I’m not going to defend anyone who has killed another human being, but the law of the land says that even if you are accused of a crime, you have the right to due process. The Supreme Court’s decision basically says that Thompkins should have said that he didn’t want to snitch on himself before he snitched on himself.

The Miranda Warnings mandate comes from the 1966 Supreme Court case in which Ernesto Miranda was arrested in connection with the kidnapping and rape of a young woman. After he was interrogated, Miranda signed a confession form, but did so without being told of his legal rights as an accused criminal. His attorney argued that the confession was not, therefore, voluntary. Although he was subsequently sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, the case went to the Supreme Court where justices decided that Miranda’s attorney was right and his conviction was overturned.

To read the rest of Madison’s post go here to BlackVoices.com.

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