Michigan Supreme Court addresses ‘right to remain silent’ in pair of decisions

LANSING — A pair of decisions handed down Tuesday afternoon by the Michigan Supreme Court clarified exactly how protections against self-incrimination commonly called “Miranda rights” apply when dealing with parole officers or choosing not to testify at trial.

The court issued rulings in People v. Clary, a case out of Wayne County, and People v. Elliott, a case from Jackson County.

Both cases turn on just how far protections against self-incrimination extend in criminal trials. In Clary, the justices were asked to rule on whether or not a defendant’s choice not to testify at a trial that ended in a mistrial may be used in a second trial.

Rayfield Clary appealed his conviction on assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm during a felony following a second trial after the first trial ended with a hung jury. Clary did not testify during his first trial, but did at his second, and prosecutors attempted to impeach his testimony by making multiple references to his failure to testify at the first trial.

Prosecutors also made reference to Clary’s refusal to speak with police following his arrest and arraignment on the charges. The court concluded that while the references to his decision not to testify in his first trial were permissible, Michigan law and federal law prohibited any mention of his decision not to speak with police after his arrest.

Justices overturned Clary’s conviction and the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings with instructions that any mention of that decision not to speak with police is not admissible in a third trial.

In Elliott, justices reinstated a conviction for robbery after determining that a confession made by a defendant to a parole officer is admissible even if the defendant is not warned of his Miranda rights and his lawyer is not present.

Samuel Lee Elliott was in custody for a parole violation in June 2010 when he confessed to robbing a gas station in Jackson to his parole officer, who then reported the statement to police investigating the robbery.

Elliott’s attorney had attempted to suppress the statement at trial, and his conviction was overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which determined Elliott should have been advised of his Miranda rights before speaking to the parole officer.

The state supreme court reinstated Elliott’s conviction, holding that Elliott was not being interrogated by the parole officer and that he was not coerced into making his statement. Because Elliott was not being interrogated and spoke freely about the case, the protections against self-incrimination did not apply and prosecutors were free to use his statements.

via MLive

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