SCOTUS: “Miranda means ‘KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!” – Berghuis v. Thompkins

[06/01/10 – 8:23 pm] This morning, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a suspect’s act of merely remaining silent for a prolonged period of time during a police custodial interrogation does not necessarily constitute an invocation of the right to remain silent under Miranda. Rather, a suspect’s right both to counsel and to remain silent under Miranda must be communicated to the interviewing police by the suspect unambiguously. In a case captioned Berghuis v. Thompkins, the Justices noted that the defendant had been arrested in connection with a homicide and was questioned by the police. During the interrogation, at no point did the suspect say that he wanted to remain silent, that he did not want to talk with the police, or that he wanted an attorney. He was largely silent during the 3-hour interrogation, but near the end, he answered “yes” when asked if he prayed to God to forgive him for the shooting. That statement was used by the prosecution at trial as an admission. Writing for the Court, Justice Kennedy noted that the respondent did not say to the interviewing detectives that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk with the police. Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his right to cut off questioning.

Download a copy of Berghuis v. Thompkins.

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