Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Berghuis v. Thompkins case brief

Berghuis v. Thompkins case brief summary
130 S. Ct. 2250 (2010)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in a habeas corpus proceeding challenging a Michigan conviction for first-degree murder and certain other offenses, ruled that there had been two separate constitutional errors in the trial that led to the jury's guilty verdict. Certiorari was granted to review the Sixth Circuit's decision on a Miranda claim and an ineffective assistance of counsel claim for failure to ask for a jury instruction.

Petitioner inmate did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk with the police. Had he made either of those simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his right to cut off questioning. He did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.

  • There was no basis to conclude that he did not understand his rights; and it followed that he chose not to invoke or rely on those rights when he did speak. 
  • His answer to a detective's question about whether the inmate prayed to God for forgiveness for shooting the victim was a course of conduct indicating waiver of the right to remain silent. 
  • If the inmate wanted to remain silent, he could have said nothing in response to the detective's questions, or he could have unambiguously invoked his Miranda rights and ended the interrogation. 
  • The fact that the inmate made the statement about three hours after receiving a Miranda warning did not overcome the fact that he engaged in a course of conduct indicating waiver. 
  • There was no evidence that the statement was coerced. 
  • It was not reasonably likely that a jury instruction would have made any difference in light of all the other evidence of guilt.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed, and the case was remanded with instructions to deny the petition. 5-4 Decision; 1 Dissent.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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