On June 1, 2010 the United States Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of
Berghuis v Thompkins.
The high court’s new ruling holds that criminal suspects can invoke their Miranda rights only by explicitly telling police that they want to remain silent. This new rule means that suspects can no longer assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent simply by remaining silent.
In its 5 –– 4 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that suspects have to tell the police they are going to remain silent in order to stop an interrogation. On February 22 of 2001, police in Southfield, Michigan spent several hours questioning Van C. Thompkins. The interrogation was centered around a shooting that occurred in January of 2000 in Oakland County, Michigan. Samuel Morris and Frederick France had been shot repeatedly at a shopping mall in Southfield. Mr. Thompkins invoked his right to remain silent. However, after hours of questioning, he made incriminating statements. This defendant appealed his conviction and claimed that he had asserted his right to remain silent by keeping silent. The Supreme Court decided that keeping silent was not enough to invoke this very important Constitutional right.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority of the Court, stated “Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police. Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his right to cut off questioning.” Here, Mr. Thompkins did not do either of these things; he just remained silent. But at some point during the questioning, a Southfield police officer ask Mr. Thompkins if he had prayed for forgiveness for “shooting down that boy.” Mr. Thompkins replied that he had. That statement helped to convict this defendant.
The Michigan criminal defense attorneys at KRONZEK & CRONKRIGHT P.L.L.C. remind you that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America makes it clear that “no person ……shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself……”" The United States Supreme Court clarified that important right in a case called Miranda v Arizona. They decided that any indication by a suspect that he desires to remain silent will require the termination of the custodial interrogation and the prosecution cannot introduce any statement from a suspect until they establish that Miranda warnings had been given to the suspect. The Thompkins case seems to curtail the earlier ruling that any indication is enough. Now criminal suspects MUST TELL tell the police they want to remain silent. To protect their Constitutional right to an attorney, suspects should also tell the police they want an attorney. Although our defense team believes the new requirements of Thompkins are too restrictive, they are nonetheless, the law of our land. We will continue to aggressively defend the rights of our clients under the Federal and the State Constitutions.
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