A right in this context means a moral entitlement or just a wish that is granted to a person that gives them the permission to act in a certain way. The right gives the person a choice of doing something or not doing it at all. Most of us devotees of television movies more, so crime related movies and shows have heard of the phrase that police use when they arrest people. The phrase goes in like this, "you have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…" This statement is part of the Miranda warning.
The arrested person can invoke this right by answering the question that is asked at the end of the notice. If he decides to remain silent then the line of interrogation ends at that point, if he implies that he wants an attorney, the interrogation is postponed until such a time that the attorney has conferred with the suspect. Recent events have seen court rulings have chipped away at these principles, and some of the cases have been analyzed in this document.
In this case, a young boy named Samuel Morris was shot dead outside a strip mall in Southfield, Mich. The suspect Van Chester Thompkins was convicted of killing the boy by the use of the statements he said during the interrogation. The Miranda rights were read out to him, but he did not affirmatively accept to remain silent rather he just kept quiet. When he was being interrogated, he did not speak for close to three hours until he was asked one question which was, "Do u believe in God?" His answer to the follow-up question after this question was used to convict him. The question was, "Do u pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?" and his answer was "Yes." The judge ruled that since Mr. Thompson did not necessarily respond to the rights that were read out to him or the fact that he was willing to speak or remain silent; the prosecution had the entire basis to use the statement against him.
This ruling gave a notion that the suspect has to state if they want to speak or remain silent clearly. Since the Miranda rights pose a question at the end, the suspect has the privilege of responding to it by either affirming that they want to speak or stating that they wish to remain silent. In my view, the ruling was rightly decided because if the suspect wanted to stay silent, he should have remained silent and not answered any question throughout the interrogation. But since he spoke, then the interrogators had no option but to use his words against him.
One may claim that because the suspect remained silent after the rights were read out to him, he might have made a non-verbal suggestion that he wanted to remain silent thus what he said should not be used against him. My response to this objection would be, if the suspect wanted to remain silent, he would have responded when the Miranda rights were read out to him and equivocally state that he wished to remain silent and since he did not reply to the rights, he had not stated his stand thus the police had the right to use his statements against him.
Richard Tom in 2007, broadsided his car killing a girl and in the process injuring the sister. At the crime scene, he asked if he could go home and the police officer refused. He was not handcuffed at that time, and he did not ask about the victims either while he was being held at the back of the police car. The prosecutor used that fact that he did not ask about the victims to find him guilty of reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter. In this case, Tom was not read his rights until two hours after his arrest.
In this case, I strongly feel that the suspect was wrongly convicted. It is not that he was innocent, but it is a fact that the basis for his conviction was the one that was wrong. The prosecutor argued that his lack of asking about the victims was the basis of convicting him of vehicular manslaughter, but this fact should not have been admissible in court as he had not been read his rights. The police are supposed to use what you say or not say after the rights have been read out to you. Because his rights had not been read to him, his not asking about the victims should not be used against him.
The strongest objection to this argument would be that Tom did not ask about the victims because he may have been feeling guilty of reckless driving. My response will be that maybe Tom did feel guilty, but the prosecution was to find credible evidence that Tom knowingly runs over the girls injuring and killing one of them the prosecution should not have used what he did not say to convict him.
Genevevo Salinas were brought in for questioning following the killing of two brothers at a house in Houston where Salinas had been at a party the day before the killings. The police did not have any witnesses but found only shotgun shell casings at the crime scene. His rights were not read to him neither were he arrested. He offered to produce his shotgun, and when asked if the gun would match the shell casings found at the crime scene, he hesitated to answer and displayed signs of discomfort. The judge responded at the trial that Salinas was "free to leave" and had not asserted his rights to remain silent and thus he was culpable of being charged with the murders.
My take on this case is that Salinas may have been guilty, but the failure of the police to read him his rights before he was invited for questioning was a clear violation of the Miranda rights thus the verdict was not rightly decided. A suspect should be read his rights before interrogation is started and in the case of Salinas, this was not the case. His remaining silent could have had a substantial effect on the final verdict if his rights had been read to him and that he had ascertained that he wished to remain silent. And since the rights were not read nor were they invoked, the court had to use his discomfort against him.
One would argue that at the time Salinas was being questioned, he had not been arrested and his inability to directly answer the question was the basis of him being suspected of committing the crimes and his inevitable sentencing, he had no right to invoke his fifth amendment. That may be true, but the fact that the police brought him for questioning meant that he was a suspect. The police had an obligation to read him his rights before he was interrogated. Salinas also had the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment before questioning.
The Miranda right should be read out to anybody who has been arrested or brought in for questioning. The person should and must respond to the question posed at the end of the right reading and should clearly state whether they wished to remain silent or wished not to stay silent. Once these parameters have been determining, anything the person says or does not say can then be used against the person. Failure by the suspect to speak after being read the Miranda rights does not mean the suspect has chosen to remain silent.
The police should make sure that the rights are read out to suspects immediately they are arrested and also to anyone immediately they are brought in for questioning. The police should also be able to make sure that the respondent gives a response on where they stand, whether they wish to remain silent or if they want to speak out.