Your Silence Confesses Your GuiltBy Wendy McElroy
Aug. 22, 2014
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On June 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) further eroded one of the most potent protections Americans had against unfettered authority: the right to remain silent. In Salinas v. Texas, SCOTUS ruled that a defendant's refusal to answer police questions before his arrest and before being Mirandized could be admitted into court as substantive evidence of his guilt. If such a defendant did not explicitly invoke the Fifth Amendment, then he had effectively waived it.
Last week, the California Supreme Court expanded the SCOTUS precedent. It restored a 2007 vehicular manslaughter conviction that had been reversed by a lower court. The original conviction had been appealed on the grounds that the defendant's silence was introduced as evidence against him. The 'damning' silence was not a refusal to answer police questions. Rather, at the scene of the car crash, the defendant had not inquired about the welfare of those in the other vehicle. This, the prosecutor argued, was proof of his guilt. The jury agreed.