“If you chose not to decide, you still have made a choice”!

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Yes, I’m quoting Rush. But this post has nothing to do with music… unless facing it counts.

This post was sparked by a comment on the Talk Bass forum, concerning the recent Supreme Court ruling on Berghuis v. Thompkins. The discussion starts by referencing this article. Part of the problem here is sloppy reporting and / or editing (gee, there is a surprise). The reporter says this:
[QUOTE]
But Tuesday’s majority said that suspects must break their silence and tell police they are going to remain quiet to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.[/QUOTE]

First, Miranda isn’t an “either / or” situation. Here are the guidlines concerning Miranda:

[QUOTE]…The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.[/QUOTE]

Note that Miranda states that once you’re read these rights, anything you say can still be used against you. And I get the feeling the reporter hasn’t even bothered to familiarize himself with the details of this case. Here is a better accounting of the facts of the case by NPR:

[QUOTE]

The case was filed by lawyers for Van Chester Thompkins who was convicted of first degree murder in a drive-by shooting that occurred in on Jan. 10, 2000 outside a Southfield, Mich. mall.

After being found in Ohio about a year after the shooting, Thompkins was questioned by police for nearly three hours after being not only advised of his Miranda rights but given a printed copy of them to read.

Thompkins refused to sign the paper and also didn’t orally indicate whether he was waiving or invoking his Miranda rights.

Towards the end of an interrogation in which Thompkins mostly said nothing, one of the interrogators asked him if he prayed to God to which he answered “Yes.”

Then the officer asked: “Do you pray to God to ask for forgiveness for shooting that boy down?”

Thompkins again answered “yes.”
[/QUOTE]

Here is more interesting analysis of this particular case. Key comment:

[QUOTE]The story of this case began when the police picked up Van Chester Thompkins in Ohio for murder and attempted murder. After taking him into custody, the officers read him Miranda warnings and asked whether he understood them. He indicated that he did. He did not, however, either invoke his rights (by saying, for example, “I don’t want to answer any questions” or “I want a lawyer”) or explicitly waive them (by expressing an affirmative desire or willingness to answer questions).[/QUOTE]

What the court has basically said, is that you can’t vote “present” on this one. Once your rights are read, they are yours to either use and take advantage of, or not.

3 Comments to ““If you chose not to decide, you still have made a choice”!”

  1. By Jeff Alberts, June 3, 2010 @ 2:31 am

    and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court

    I’ve always thought that wording was odd. It sounds as if anything you say will be used against you, even if you don’t say anything incriminating.

  2. By Sonicfrog, June 5, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

    Don’t forget; it is “anything you say can and will be used against you”. So, if they ask you if you like pumpkin pie, and the case has nothing to do with pumpkin pie, then than won’t be used against you. If the case concerns a stolen pumpkin pie however….

  3. By Jeff Alberts, June 9, 2010 @ 2:10 am

    Well, no, it’s can AND will. It’s inclusive, not “may”.

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