Confession, Defendant’s Silence Through Most of Interrogation Does not Invoke Right to Remain Silent

Criminal Law Update

Berghuis v Thompkins, __ US __; 130 S Ct 2250; 176 L Ed 2d 1098 (2010)(june’10). Defendant was apprehended following a shooting that left one person dead. After reading him his Miranda rights, two police officers questioned him. The defendant never expressed that he did not want to talk to the police, and never asked for an attorney – he was silent during the three hour interrogation, except for answering affirmatively when asked if he prayed to be forgiven for the crime. Defendant later claimed that he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and that his statements were involuntary. The Supreme Court held that his silence during the interrogation did not invoke the right to remain silent, reasoning that a suspect’s Miranda right to counsel must be invoked “unambiguously.” Davis v United States, 512 US 452. The Court determined that there is no reason to apply different standards for determining when an accused has invoked the Miranda right to remain silent versus when the Miranda right to counsel is invoked. Any voluntary answers given to police, such as the “yes” given by the defendant here, may waive the Miranda Rights. The Court stated that a suspect must unambiguously indicate invocation of the right to remain silent in order to avoid complicating police procedures.