Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

So Goes the Supreme Court

Today the U.S. Supreme Court bit a chunk out of the Miranda decision which said the government had the burden to prove that a crime suspect had "knowingly and intelligently waived" his rights.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled a crime suspect had the duty (emphasis mine) to invoke his rights. "If he failed to do so, his later word can be used to convict him."

In this case, Michigan police had informed the suspect, Van Thompkins, of his rights, including the right to remain silent. Thompkins said he understood, but he did not tell the officer he wanted to stop the questioning or speak to a lawyer.

But he sat in a chair and said nothing for about two hours and 45 minutes. At that point, the officer asked, "Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?"

"Yes," Thompson (sic) said and looked away. He refused to sign a confession or speak further, but he was convicted of first-degree murder, based largely on his one-word reply.

Thompkins' murder conviction was turned over by the U.S. 6th Circuit of Appeals on the grounds that the use of the incriminating answer violated his "right against self-incrimination under the "Miranda decision."

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote: "Police were 'not required to obtain a waiver' of the suspect's 'right to remain silent before interrogating him.'" Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The Supreme Court reversed that ruling and reinstated the conviction. "A suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings and has not invoked his Miranda rights waives the right to remain silent by making an uncoerced statement to the police," Kennedy said.

Writing for the minority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling "marks a substantial retreat from the protections against compelled self-incrimination that Miranda v. Arizona has long provided." Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer joined her dissent.

Lest you are breathlessly awaiting Elena Kagan's expected seating on the High Court, hold your breath. While U.S. Solicitor General, Kagan filed a brief on the side of Michigan prosecutors and argued that "the government need not prove that a suspect expressly waived his rights."


  1. Greeting's Ms.Leslie!

    Thanx for posting this, I havent heard a damn thing about this yet, and really need to look into this closer, to see what the Hell is up as far as detail's, I hope this isnt the crap that I suspect though.

    Have a good un .........

  2. damn I heard they are going all through them Law and order episodes and redoing the Miranda rights sections. You have the right to remain silent, don't matter well convict you anyway......

  3. ""Police were 'not required to obtain a waiver' of the suspect's 'right to remain silent before interrogating him.'"

    There goes the Miranda protection.

    Hardly a day goes by any more when I'm not reminded of one of the few truthful memorable things George W. Bush said while president: "Elections have consequences."

    Yes, they do. And Americans are going to spend the next generation or two paying for how they screwed up so that the Supreme Court ended up electing him.

  4. I'm not sure I see the problem here. They read him is rights and he said that he understood them. Later he said something incriminating. So...? He knew is rights. He didn't have to say anything, but he chose to.

    What am I missing?

  5. Whoops! Looks like I am having problems with my "h"'s today. There are a couple of "is"'s that should be "his"'s in my previous comment.

  6. I'm looking at it in two ways. And before someone yells, "You're not an attorney," let me say, "No, I'm not an attorney."

    First: "A suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings and has not invoked his Miranda rights waives the right to remain silent by making an ((uncoerced)) statement to the police," Kennedy said.

    "Uncoerced." Maybe, in this incident, the suspect wasn't coerced but I feel there's the smell of trickery in the way the police handled it. Some might go as far as to say entrapment but I'm not prepared to say that.

    Second. How many criminal suspects know and understand the finer points of this new twist and, unbeknownst to them, incriminate themselves. Are the cops required to inform them of this new law when they read them their rights? Or are they just expected to know it?

    I was thrilled when the Miranda Law was passed but I've always wondered if, in the excitement, confusion, fear of the moment, a first or even second time offender or a suspect not well versed in English, really comprehends what they are hearing.

  7. Let me add something here .... If I may .... we can talk all we want about what the cop's do or dont do, but unless ya'll been there and done that, you dont know jack about the reality of the street's or cop's. You can have all the right's you want on paper, but the reality in America .... and this is every major city coast to coast, most cop's never even give common folk's regardless of ethnicity miranda right's (they will though if you look like a Yuppie and a "class" above the usual street type's, out of fear your hip enough to use it against them) they let the judge's do it when your arranged, and as a group address, when your charges are formally read ( you are a "suspect" until formally "charged", even it your in custody for two day's or so) and served and bond status is determined or rejected. Probably 90% of suspect's are coerced without being given right's, most street suspect's dont know to ask for their right's because they fear that that may aggravate the officer, like talking back, and many time's supply incriminating testimony to officer's in the hope of getting a break, yet cop's will put it all in writing, lie to the suspect and say something like " If you cooperate, we will put in a good word for you and help you" Straight up .... that's BS! .... aint no cop can put in a good word, or have jack shit to do with the hearing unless their called to testify on a stand, and only then under questioning from prosecution or defense, if you could ... it would be a violation of the court. This nonsense they show on the tele, such as show's like "Cop's" is hilarious .... we use to sit locked up laughing at that shit, because the cop's on camera do everything by the book, that shit is so phoney it's like a joke compared to reality. Most common offender's dont know squat about their right's or even when a "game" is being ran down on them, and cop's take advantage of that. Do you get your right's to begin with? Ask the brother's in lock up if they got their's.

    That's the Reality!

    Thank You ..........

  8. Let me get this straight: To preserve your right to remain silent, you have to talk.

  9. There's more to this story than meets the eye. If the guy is truly guilty I frankly have no sympathy for his slip of the tongue.

    We all watched Dragnet. If you don't know your Miranda rights by now then wtf you been all these years?

    I'm still a good and loyal Lib. I frankly have little patience with stupidity.

  10. Great minds, Leslie. We're tripping over each other again. ;-)

    Roberts and Scalia both promised during their confirmation hearings to respect stare decisis.

    In Kagan's defence, any bries she filed as Solicitor General, may or may not reflect her own opinions. Her job was to argue positions set by the DOJ, not her own.

  11. Unfortunately criminal suspects are undereducated and many are mentally challenged. They are still innocent until proven guilty and should not be put in a position of incriminating themselves - even if they're stupid as a bucket of rocks.

    Not all cops are jerks but enough of them are to make things unpleasant for a suspect. I think RC's assessment can easily be backed up by many in the legal system - and even the prison system. My deceased uncle was a New Orleans public defender for years. He didn't have too many kind words to say about arresting officers, claiming that 98% of them lied like a Republican when they got on the stand.

    In the meantime, I think the Court is hell bent on eroding everything that's been done over the last 50 years or more. I pray to God an abortion case doesn't come before them.

  12. K,

    Exactly. After you are told you have the right to remain silent, you must stop being silent in order to remain silent.

  13. The Fourth Amendment cases which resulted in Miranda and its strengthening were adjudicated with the rights of the accused in mind, leaning on the cornerstone “innocent until proven gulty.” As with everything in the topsy-turvy conservative mindset, , that of the majority on the current Supreme Court seems to weigh heavily on the premise “guilty until proven innocent.”

    The circumstances of each case which led to its strengthening are proof alone that this chipping away at Miranda will ultimately lead to injustice.

    Thanks for the very concise and clear distillation of today’s decision.

  14. I think the question asked of the defendant in this case was deliberately tricky and confusing: Do you pray...?

    After all of the press about DNA testing and the release of mistakenly or falsely convicted prisoners, the news about our overcrowded prisons and their inhumane conditions, I think the conservative court was trying to shove back.

  15. I just wish a couple of these judges would retire one way or another.

  16. Justice Thomas will have to learn how to use Google in order to find out who Carmen Miranda really was.