Two brothers were shot and killed in their home. Police recovered shotgun shells that led them to investigate the petitioner. The petitioner handed over his gun and agreed to go to the police station for questioning. The petitioner answered all of the questions the police had, but when it came to the question about the shells matching the petitioner’s gun he went silent. So the police asked a few more questions to which the petitioner answered. The petitioner did not testify at the trial, so the prosecutor used his silence as evidence of guilt.
Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years. This was directly sent to the Texas State Court of Appeals who rejected the argument. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals took up the case and affirmed the same judgment.
Was the petitioner’s Fifth Amendment right violated when prosecutor’s used his silence as evidence of guilt, when he was not in custody and had not had his Miranda rights read to him? Holding/Rule:
No, because the petitioner did not express that he wanted to invoke his privilege to stay silent, and not testify. Reasoning:
Neither of the two recognized exceptions to the invocation requirement applies here. One is that a petitioner is not required to take the stand and assert the privilege against self-incrimination at his own trial. The other is that a witness’ failure to invoke the privilege may be excuse where government coercion made his forfeiture of the privilege involuntary. It is undisputed the petitioner’s interview with the police was voluntary. He admitted that he was free to leave at any time, so nothing prevented him from saying he refused to answer the police’s questions. The third exception was not even considered, because the requirement for this one would be the witness would remain silent and decline to give an answer that the officers would suspect incriminating.