Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jenkins v. Anderson case brief

Jenkins v. Anderson case brief summary
447 U.S. 231 (1980)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of petitioner prisoner's habeas petition by the trial court, which alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when he was questioned about his pre-arrest silence during cross-examination. The prisoner was granted a writ of certiorari.

The prisoner testified in his own behalf at trial for first-degree murder. He maintained that his actions were taken in self-defense. During cross-examination, the prisoner was questioned about his actions prior to his arrest, which occurred two weeks after the incident. The prosecutor also alluded to the prisoner's pre-arrest silence during his closing argument.


  • The Court held that the use of the prisoner's pre-arrest silence to impeach his credibility violated neither the Fifth nor the Fourteenth Amendment. 
  • While the Fifth Amendment guaranteed the right to remain silent, an accused who chose to testify was subject to cross-examination and could be impeached like any other witness. 
  • Thus, the Fifth Amendment was not violated by the usage of the prisoner's pre-arrest silence to impeach his credibility. 
  • In that regard, the Court observed that the argument that the possibility of impeachment by prior silence was an impermissible burden on Fifth Amendment rights had been previously rejected. 
  • Similarly, the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was not violated by the usage of pre-arrest silence to impeach an accused as the common law had traditionally allowed that very practice.

The Court affirmed the denial of the prisoner's petition for federal habeas relief.

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