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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Salinas Versus Texas and a Corrupt Supreme Court

Corrupt Supreme Court infringes right to silence

Court now says: "You have no right to remain silent. If you do that act shall be used against you in a court of law

Brandon L. Garrett, writing for Slate, reports in an article "You Don't have a right to Remain Silent" That:

"On Monday, in a case called Salinas v. Texas that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, the Supreme Court held that you remain silent at your peril. The court said that this is true even before you’re arrested, when the police are just informally asking questions. The court’s move to cut off the right to remain silent is wrong and also dangerous—because it encourages the kind of high-pressure questioning that can elicit false confessions."

The court has moved so far to the right on this issue that they have forgotten that self incrimination is not only an issue for the guilty but for the innocent, and that a person who opens his mouth can incriminate him or herself even when innocent. If the man in this case owned a shotgun of the same make and type as that of the Perpetrator, or suddenly realized the gun had been out of his control for a time, then his reaction was natural. The court has been reversing not just the letter of Miranda and 5th amendment rights but the sense. Now "You do not have a right to remain silent. If you remain silent that silence will be held against you in a court of law."

At this moment many of our governors, legislators and judges act like government should be run as business, should serve big business, and should serve the wealthy and not the rest of us. At the same time the Supreme Court is ruling that ordinary people don't have 5th amendment rights anymore, the wealthy still have those rights and powerful corporations have impunity from any obligations and more rights than the rest of us. This is a shame. This is something evil and corrupt. Courts are not about shoving hundreds of people into and through the system as rapidly and arbitrarily as possible. Prosecutors don't have a duty to win cases, but to uphold justice. And despite corrupt lawyers and justices claiming that law and justice is not about justice, it is.

And when it's not: the judges and legislators who make it unjust are corrupt.

Further reading:

Slate article

You can read the article for yourself if you want to. But if you are interested in further comments they follow.

"Here are the facts from Salinas: Two brothers were shot at home in Houston. There were no witnesses—only shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Genovevo Salinas had been at a party at that house the night before the shooting, and police invited him down to the station, where they talked for an hour. They did not arrest him or read him his Miranda warnings. Salinas agreed to give the police his shotgun for testing. Then the cops asked whether the gun would match the shells from the scene of the murder. According to the police, Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet, bit his lip, and started to tighten up.

Salinas might have been guilty. Then again he might not have been. But him being uncomfortable under questioning is not evidence he's guilty of the crime he was charged with.

"At trial, Salinas did not testify, but prosecutors described his reportedly uncomfortable reaction to the question about his shotgun. Salinas argued this violated his Fifth Amendment rights: He had remained silent, and the Supreme Court had previously made clear that prosecutors can’t bring up a defendant’s refusal to answer the state’s questions. This time around, however, Justice Samuel Alito blithely responded that Salinas was “free to leave” and did not assert his right to remain silent. He was silent. But somehow, without a lawyer, and without being told his rights, he should have affirmatively “invoked” his right to not answer questions. Two other justices signed on to Alito’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the judgment, but for a different reason; they think Salinas had no rights at all to invoke before his arrest (they also object to Miranda itself). The upshot is another terrible Roberts Court ruling on confessions. In 2010 the court held that a suspect did not sufficiently invoke the right to remain silent when he stubbornly refused to talk, after receiving his Miranda warnings, during two hours of questioning. Now people have to somehow invoke the right to remain silent even when they’re not formal suspects and they haven’t been heard the Miranda warnings. As Orin Kerr points out on the Volokh Conspiracy, this just isn’t realistic."

And of course the moment they invoke the right to be silent, that is taken a proof that they have done something wrong and are guilty by police and prosecutors. So being silent on a question becomes evidence of guilt. More tools for corrupt police to railroad people with.

"The court’s ruling in Salinas is all the more troubling because during such informal, undocumented, and unregulated questioning, there are special dangers that police may, intentionally or not, coax false confessions from innocent suspects. I have spent years studying cases of people exonerated by DNA testing. A large group of those innocent people falsely confessed—and many supposedly admitted their guilt even before any formal interrogation. Take the case of Nicholas Yarris, who was exonerated by DNA testing in 2003, after 20 years in prison. He had been convicted and sentenced to death in Pennsylvania for the murder of a woman found raped, beaten, and stabbed near her abandoned Chrysler Cordoba."

The legal scholar Brandon L. Garrett notes that the mere familial knowledge of the victim reported by a person being questioned was enough for the police to claim he confessed and was guilty. Even though years later we find out that the person wasn't guilty at all, but had been railroaded.

"When informally questioned, police said, Yarris volunteered that he knew the victim had been raped, and that the victim’s Chrysler had a brown “landau” roof (a vinyl fake convertible look). That was a striking detail, especially since the police had kept it out of the press. No tape was made of the interrogation. The police didn’t even produce notes. And now that DNA has cleared Yarris, we know his confession was false, and that he must not have volunteered the fact about the car roof at all."

Yarrow had been railroaded because he'd been willing to talk when questioned without representation present, or a record being made.

"The Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas encourages the kind of loosey-goosey, and easily contaminated, police questioning that led to Yarris’ wrongful convfiction. Salinas may very well have been guilty of the two murders."

The legal standard in criminal cases is "beyond a reasonable doubt" and that makes it hard on prosecutors and police. As the Brandon L. Garrett notes:

"But in many cases, as in this one, there are no eyewitnesses and not much other evidence of guilt: That is why the police may desperately need a confession."

And that, along with the corrupt attitude of many of our judges and prosecutors nowadays, gives them an incentive to cheat, lie, misrepresent, substitute "civil proceedings" abusively, or misuse the statements people make under pressure to railroad innocent persons into confessing or engaging in plea bargaining despite being innocent.

But the standard is still justice, at least nominally and that is why Garrett notes:

"And that makes it crucial for them to handle interrogations and confessions with the utmost care."

But with our corrupt supreme court and corrupt lesser courts that is no longer the issue. The issue is the "efficiency" with which persons can be found guilty or herded into the system.

"The court appreciated none of the pressures police face, and how they can squeeze an innocent suspect. Alito and the other conservatives were not troubled that there was no video to confirm that Salinas was in fact uncomfortable as well as silent. If Salinas had answered the question by exclaiming that he was innocent, could police have reported that he sounded desperate and like a liar? The court’s new ruling puts the “defendant in an impossible predicament. He must either answer the question or remain silent,”

That is exactly what the police would do. And our current courts and judges will accept a patent lie from a prosecutor or law enforcement official over obvious facts. The purpose of Miranda rights was to prevent this kind of situation where one is guilty, innocent or not, whatever they say and to make sure that justice is delivered to the actual miscreants -- not denied by police officers and lawyers who themselves are criminally corrupt.

The article notes "that Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent (joined by the other three liberal-moderates)":

“If he answers the question, he may well reveal, for example, prejudicial facts, disreputable associates, or suspicious circumstances—even if he is innocent.”
"But if he doesn’t answer, at trial, police and prosecutors can now take advantage of his silence, or perhaps even of just pausing or fidgeting."

Ultimately, this decision shows a corrupt court that serves the forces of injustice, not justice, and that won't protect basic rights or basic principles of justice.

"Questions first, rights later is the approach the court’s majority now endorses. And by giving the police more incentive to ask questions informally, the new ruling will also undermine the key reform that police have adopted to prevent false confessions: videotaping entire interrogations. Why not try to trap a suspect before the camera starts rolling? In only a few cases like Yarris’ will there be DNA to test. The likely result of the court’s embrace of shoddy interrogation tactics: more wrongful convictions."

Slate article

Related Posts:
A Corrupt Court, Tuesday, June 26, 2012:
A corrupt decision blind to corrupt access and influence October 8, 2013:
Corruption, Racketeering and the Supreme Court, Wednesday, October 16, 2013:
Corrupt judges on the Supreme Court. October 23, 2013:
Corrupt Court and Undue Influence and access according to Founders, Thursday, March 27, 2014:
The Expected Corrupt Decision by a corrupt court, Saturday, April 5, 2014:
Is Quid Pro Quo the only kind of corruption that Government can regulate. April 5, 2014:
Undue influence and Dependency Corruption or why the Supreme Court Decision was so corrupt, April 21st, 2014:

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