Summary Case Law: Berghuis, Warden v. Thompkins

Summary of Case Law: Berghuis, Warden v. Thompkins (Comparative Criminal Law, 2016/2017)

About police interrogation and waiver. 


Berghuis, Warden v. Thompkins

Introduction

The Berghuis Warden v. Thompkins case is about interrogation by the police and the right to remain silent (the Fifth Amendment). The case is about implicit waiver. Implicit waiver is possible when a suspect does not invoke his right to remain silent.

 

Facts

Thompkins was arrested for a shooting in Michigan. He was informed his rights by the police officers. At no point did Thompkins say that he wanted to remain silent, that he did not want to talk with the police or that he wanted an attorney. He was largely silent during the 3-hour interrogation, but near the end, he answered ‘yes’ when asked if he prayed to god to forgive him for the shooting. He moved to suppress his statements, claiming that he had invoked his right to remain silent, that he had not waived that right, and that his inculpatory statements were involuntary. Thompkins was charged with first-degree murder and other charges. The jury found Thompkins guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison.

 

Thompkins appealed two times: First at the State Court of Appeals, and after that the Federal District Court. The Federal District Court denied his request, reasoning that he did not invoke his right to remain silent and was not coerced into making statements during the interrogation, and that it was not unreasonable, for purposes of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty, for the State Court of Appeals to determine that he had waived his right to remain silent.

According to the Court, Thompkins waived his right to remain silent when he knowingly and voluntarily made a statement to the police. He didn’t invoke his right to remain silent. A waiver must be the product of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion or deception and made with a full awareness of both... Interested? Read the instructions below in order to read the full content of this page.

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