Tag Archives: 5th amendment

It’s up to you to Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

Wade Wilson mugshot

Your right against self-incrimination is provided by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You can’t be compelled to provide testimony against yourself… but time and time again, criminal suspects give statements that harm their own interests. The latest example is Wade Wilson, a Cape Coral man suspected in two murders during a spree a few weeks ago. Wilson was jailed on other charges while authorities continued their investigation.

Well, our Wade Wilson, not to be confused with the comic-book Deadpool’s alter-ego played by Ryan Reynolds, just couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Wilson started calling local reporters and giving statements that were broadcast on the news. Wilson gave chilling statements about his interactions with the women. While Wilson ultimately denied being responsible for killing the women, he made multiple incriminating statements, including admitting that he was the last known person to see the women alive. The state may have charged him anyway, but it certainly didn’t help, as he’s now been indicted for first degree murder in their deaths.  Yes, his news interviews will be admissible evidence against him.

This goes from the most serious charges like Wilson’s, down to misdemeanors like DUI. While the State may be able to prove up a DUI based on the observations of officers, other witnesses, or a breath result… the case gets a lot easier if the Defendant admits drinking, or how much he was drinking before he got pulled over. The cops are certainly going to keep listening.

Supreme Court to Hear Case That May Allow Silence to be Used as Evidence of Guilt

Generally, an individual has  right to remain silent, and his or her exercise of that right cannot be used against him in a court of law. However, some courts have found that in some circumstances, the government may be allowed to introduce a suspect’s silence as evidence of guilt. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has held in Salinas v. Texas* that Mr. Salinas’ refusal to answer certain questions in a pre-arrest, pre-Miranda interview were not protected by the Fifth Amendment. You can read all the documents at SCOTUSblog.

The courts have previously determined that if someone is formally placed under arrest (or if they are informed of their rights), their Fifth Amendment protections would be preserved. Crimcourts has some concern that if someone’s silence can be used against them, regardless at what stage of a proceeding, then they are almost compelled to talk. That is, the suspect is given a choice to answer, or to have that silence used against them at trial. If they are to be punished for being silent, their testimony is compelled to some degree. Different courts have ruled differently on the issue, and the resulting conflict in the law was likely a prompt for the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the case to review and rule definitively on the issue.

*Salinas v. Texas, 369 S.W.3d 176 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012). http://www2.bloomberglaw.com/desktop/public/document/Salinas_v_State_369_SW3d_176_Tex_Crim_App_2012_Court_Opinion


Two of Casey Anthony’s Convictions Overturned

Two of the four convictions Ms. Anthony received for lying to police have been thrown out for double jeopardy. The Courts ruled that the state could not convict someone of multiple statements during the same interrogation. Thus the court rejected the theory argued by prosecutor Jeff Ashton in his book, and again by the appellate counsel. The Court also rejected the Defense argument that the interview was single episode. The 5th District Court found that since there were separate interviews, with a significant temporal break between them, that constituted two separate occasions of giving false information. The Court upheld two convictions, and threw out the other two. This doesn’t have a major impact for Ms. Anthony, as she has already served her time for those misdemeanor offenses.

Also, Crimcourts got a chance to watch the movie about Miss Anthony’s case, Prosecuting Casey Anthony, which was based on Jeff Ashton’s book. It was not as one-sided as I was afraid, being based on the prosecutor’s book. Rob Lowe was fine as Ashton, though I have come accustomed to his comedic roles. Oscar Nunez (Oscar from the office) was excellent as Anthony’s attorney Jose Baez… perhaps too polished for Mr. Baez. The movie didn’t capture the tension the case carried in the courtroom. It did show that there was some ambiguity in the evidence but, true to life, Mr. Ashton had his prosecution blinders on. It’s probably only worth watching if you followed the case closely.