U.S. Supreme Court rules that a two-year break in interrogation nullifies 5th. Amendment Demand to Remain Silent made two years prior to current interrogation

 

 

Feb. 2010

The US Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 9-0 in Maryland v. Shatzer that the Edwards v. Arizona [opinion text] prohibition against interrogation of a suspect who has invoked the Fifth Amendment right to counsel does not require suppression of statements if, after the suspect asks for counsel, there is a break of more than two years before resuming interrogation. The Court of Appeals of Maryland had ruled that there was no break in custody and that the Edwards prohibition against interrogation still applied. Delivering the opinion of the Court, Justice Antonin Scalia explained:
“It is easy to believe that a suspect may be coerced or badgered into abandoning his earlier refusal to be questioned without counsel in the paradigm Edwards case…in which the suspect has been arrested for a particular crime and is held in uninterrupted pretrial custody while that crime is being actively investigated. After the initial interrogation, and up to and including the second one, he remains cut off from his normal life and companions…[If] a suspect has been released from his pretrial custody and has returned to his normal life for some time before the later attempted interrogation, there is little reason to think that his change of heart regarding interrogation without counsel has been coerced….In these circumstances, it is far fetched to think that a police officer’s asking the suspect whether he would like to waive his Miranda rights will any more “wear down the accused,” than did the first such request at the original attempted interrogation — which is of course not deemed coercive.”
Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, while Justice John Paul Stevens filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

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