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U.S. Supreme Court Says Silence Can Be Used Against You in Trial


With all the coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions last week regarding affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act and same-sex marriage, it’s not surprising some of the court’s other decisions didn’t receive as much attention, including one case that originated in Texas: Salinas v Texas.

 That decision is expected to have a big impact on the rights of criminal suspects on trial. 

On June 17, the court ruled a murder suspect’s silence during questioning, before the suspect is in custody, can be used against him or her during a trial.  

“To prevent the privilege against self-incrimination from shielding information not properly within its scope, a witness who 'desires the protection of the privilege . . . must claim it' at the time he relies on it,” Justice Antonin Scalia.

The case dates back to 1992, when Houston police questioned suspect Genovevo Salinas about two murders in Texas. He voluntarily answered questions, but was silent when asked a question about the murder weapon.

During his murder trial in a Texas district court, the prosecutor used his silence as an evidence of guilt. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that was legal. Justices Alito, Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts concluded since Salinas did not invoke his Miranda rights when asked the specific question, his attempt to claim the right to remain silent is invalid. 

The court ruled since police don’t have to read Miranda rights until after an arrest, everything before that is admissible.

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