Supreme Court: Prosecutors Can Use Suspect’s Silence As Evidence of Guilt


Prosecutors can use a suspect's silence during informal police questioning as evidence of guilt at a later trial, says a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling reported by the Christian Science Monitor. In a case with important implications for people in the early stages of a police investigation, the court said a suspect must verbally invoke his or her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to prevent police and prosecutors from using any resulting silence and incriminating body language as evidence of guilt during a jury trial. “The Fifth Amendment guarantees that no one may be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; it does not establish an unqualified right to remain silent,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. The high court split 5 to 4, with the five-member conservative wing rejecting a claim to the Fifth Amendment privilege in the case and the four-member liberal wing supporting such a claim. The issue arose in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was charged and convicted in the shooting death of two brothers in Texas in 1992.

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