Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Silence Right Must Be Invoked Explicitly, Court Says

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By Greg Stohr

Criminal suspects must explicitly invoke their right to remain silent to force police to stop questioning, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

The 5-4 decision upholds the Michigan murder conviction of a man who sat silent throughout most of a three-hour interrogation by police. The ruling blunts the force of the landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona decision, which required police to inform suspects of their rights.

"A requirement of an unambiguous invocation of Miranda rights results in an objective inquiry that avoids difficulties of proof and provides guidance to officers on how to proceed in the face of ambiguity," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

The ruling divided the court along what have become familiar lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joining Kennedy in the majority.

"Today's decision turns Miranda upside down," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent. "Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent -- which, counterintuitively, requires them to speak."

Justices Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Sotomayor in dissent.

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