The Supreme Court is reviewing a case in which a Texas man's silence while voluntarily answering police questions was presented as evidence at trial. His murder conviction was upheld on appeal.
The US Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether prosecutors can use an individual’s refusal to answer police questions as evidence of guilt at a subsequent trial if the silence came prior to being taken into police custody.
While the high court has long held that criminal suspects who are in police custody have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, the court has never decided whether a similar right protects interactions with police prior to an arrest.
Suspects are routinely advised in Miranda warnings that they have a right to remain silent. That right stems from the Fifth Amendment protection against being compelled to provide evidence against oneself at trial.
But it is not clear whether the same protection applies to statements made to police at the earliest stages of an investigation.
The issue arises in a 1992 Texas double murder case involving a man who was voluntarily answering a series of questions by police at a police station but then refused to answer when officers posed a specific query: whether his shotgun would match shells recovered at the scene of the killings.
Confronted with that question, Genovevo Salinas responded with silence.
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