Earlier this week in Berghuis v. Thompkins, (Sup. Ct., June 1, 2010), the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision made it easier for police to obtain a waiver of Miranda rights by suspects being questioned. The majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, held that police can continue questioning a suspect until he clearly invokes his right to remain silent. Furthermore, when questioning continues after a Miranda warning has been given and understood, the accused's later uncoerced statement implies a waiver of his right to remain silent. The uncoerced statement in this case was a response by the accused to questions about his belief in God. Here is Justice Kennedy's account:
About 2 hours and 45 minutes into the interrogation, [Police Detective] Helgert asked Thompkins, "Do you believe in God?" .... Thompkins made eye contact with Helgert and said "Yes," as his eyes "well[ed] up with tears." ... "Do you pray to God?" Thompkins said "Yes." ... Helgert asked, "Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?" ... Thompkins answered "Yes" and looked away.... Thompkins refused to make a written confession, and the interrogation ended about 15 minutes later.Yesterday's Detroit Free Press reported on the Court's decision.