Berghuis v Thompkins

Chad sent me a link for outcome in this case, and I wanted to see the decision to see how they got there. I can say, after reading it, that I agree with their logic.

The reason that what he said couldn’t be deemed inadmissible is because firstly, he didn’t invoke his right to remain silent. Secondly, he implicitly waived his right by answering the question. Further, after the police told him his rights, and while he did not invoke or waive those rights, they can still interrogate him.

The more in depth reasoning is as follows:

There was a prior Court ruling in which it said that there can be no ambiguity involved if one wishes to invoke their right to remain silent. His silence was riddled with answers throughout for the entire period, and that could cause ambiguity as to whether or not he was invoking his right. Further, he read a sheet that listed the rights, had the rights read to him, and read them aloud; there was no reason to doubt that he understood his rights. In addition, his statement wasn’t coerced, so it was in following that he voluntarily spoke and thus implicitly waived his right to remain silent. Had he truly wanted a clear and succinct showing that he was invoking his right, he could have either stated that he was to invoke his right, or that he would remain quietly throughout and not answer ANY questions.

That part of it is what it really boils down to. The other questions raised are more procedural, such as the other courts weren’t the proper venues for it to go since there was no issue of it violating federal law. Another one was that since the outcome would not have been any different with a different lawyer, barring their acceptance of his attempt to disallow his statement, his counsel was effective in what they did.

  1. #1 by Chadwick on June 1, 2010 - 3:04 PM

    Hmm…I can see where it’s coming from, but I still don’t have to like it. And quite honestly, knowing that he had a right to remain silent doesn’t mean he necessarily understood that he’d have to declare it outright. He might well have understood it to mean that he had a right to just sit there and shut up.

    I mean, I do understand what the court was ruling here, and I don’t know that they’re wrong…but anytime a ruling gets handed down that shifts any more power toward the police and away from the citizens—even in a way that’s far more technical than actual—is not something I like.

    • #2 by Phillip on June 1, 2010 - 3:17 PM

      There was actually a bit in there about whether or not, since he didn’t give sign something saying that he understood his rights, about whether he verbally stated he did. In the paperwork it was stated that he did, but when it came time for the detective to restate that, he couldn’t recall whether or not he did.

      But on that same token, even if he didn’t necessarily understand the right, there are tons of people that are mentally unable to do so and end up in similar situations. But, even if he just understood it to mean that he can sit there and shut up, he understood that he has a right to be silent, yet he still answered their question which implies a waiver of his right to remain silent for that question.

      I don’t like the ruling any more than you do, but, all the pieces were in place prior and this was just putting them all together. And again, it’s a reminder to never talk to cops.

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