Miranda Rights – Homework Experts

The 1966 Miranda v. Arizona US Supreme Court decision provided that, under the Fifth Amendment, a suspect in police custody must be told:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.

If warnings are not properly provided, any statements made by the suspect and any evidence derived from those statements cannot subsequently be used in court. The warnings are highly controversial and the current Supreme Court appears to be inclined to relax the Miranda requirements.
Michigan police informed a suspect, Van Thompkins, of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, including the right to remain silent. Thompkins said he understood, but he did not say he wanted the questioning to stop or that he wanted a lawyer. Rather, he sat through two hours and 45 minutes of questioning without speaking until an officer asked: “Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Thompkins said, “Yes.” He did not speak further, and he did not sign a confession. He was later convicted of murder, that verdict being based largely on his one-word reply. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, ruling that the use of the incriminating answer violated Thompkins’s Fifth Amendment rights, as defined and required by Miranda.
The Berghuis v. Thompkins case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, where the court chipped away at the Miranda requirements in a 5-4 reversal of the court of appeals ruling. The court said, “A suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings and has not revoked his Miranda rights waives the right to remain silent by making an uncoerced statement to the police. The Court’s decision requires a criminal suspect to explicitly and unambiguously tell the police he or she wants to remain silent. Merely remaining silent had previously been treated as an invitation of the right to remain silent but the Court’s Thompkins ruling changed that practice and in the view of critics ill-advisedly diminished the Fifth Amendment protections. The Supreme Court further relaxed the Miranda requirements in two other 2010 decisions, Florida v. Powell and Maryland v. Shatzer.
However, in 2011, the Court strengthened Miranda protection for young people when it ruled the police must consider the age of a suspect in deciding whether Miranda must be issued. In J.D.B. v. North Carolina, a 13-year-old Chapel Hill, North Carolina student confessed to a pair of home break-ins during a half-hour of questioning by police officers and school administrators in a middle school conference room. The warnings were not issued and J.D.B. was not permitted to call his grandmother who was his guardian. The state however claimed J.D.B. was not in custody and therefore the warnings were not required. In general, the suspect is considered not to have been in custody if a “reasonable person” under the circumstance would’ve felt free to leave. The North Carolina courts ruled that J.D.B. was not in custody, but the U.S. Supreme Court held that the police must consider the suspect’s age when deciding if custody has been achieved such that the warnings are required. The case was returned to North Carolina to determine whether J.D.B., given his age, was in custody during the questioning.

1. Do you think Thompkins’s response of “yes” to the police inquiry should have been admissible in court against him? Explain.
2. In general, do you think the Miranda warnings offer too much protection for criminal suspects? Explain.