Per the AP account of the latest Supreme Court decision, a suspect can not invoke his right to remain silent by doing something so humdrum as remaining silent. No, the suspect has to speak up!
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations, a decision one dissenting justice said turns defendants' rights ''upside down.''
A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.
I assume, or at least hope, that it sounds a bit less wacky in the opinion. The story does include this:
Van Chester Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and interrogated by police for three hours. At the beginning, Thompkins was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.
The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering ''yes,'' ''no,'' ''I don't know,'' nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for ''shooting that boy down,'' Thompkins said, ''Yes.''
He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.
If the police felt the suspect was not being utterly unresponsive, then one can see why they would continue the interrogation. Near-silence is not silence.
And I guess there could be a real problem with implementing a rule that equated silence with an assertion of the right to end the interrogation. Would ten seconds of sullen silence be enough? One minute? Ten minutes? When does the clock start, and who plays scorekeeper?
The SCOTUSBlog has lots.