Right to Remain Silent


The high-profile murder trial of the woman accused of killing a Monroe County election official recently came to close. Jessica Kennedy was accused of first degree murder in the shooting death of Jim Miller. One of the key pieces of evidence that prosecutors used in the trial was Jessica Kennedy's confession.

Police had always suspected several people were involved in Miller's murder, but Kennedy was the only suspect to be charged thus far, perhaps in part due to the statements she made to the police. Kennedy was interrogated almost a dozen times by investigators, and the statements Kennedy made were introduced as evidence against her. Most crucial was a statement from the last of these many interrogations: Kennedy said that she and others lured the victim to a house to rob him, and then she shot him.

Before the police can interrogate a person who is arrested for a crime, the police must inform that person of certain important rights. These rights are what are commonly known as the Miranda Rights. Perhaps the most important of all is the right to remain silent. The United States Constitution guarantees that no one can be forced "to be a witness against himself." The Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that when the police question a person suspected of a crime, that person can refuse to answer the investigator's questions. In other words, the police cannot force a suspect to be a witness against himself by forcing them to answer questions.

This right to remain silent is extremely important for any person who finds himself or herself suspected, arrested, or accused of a crime. The police often use the statements of suspects against them in a later criminal trial; in fact, a person's own statement can be among the most compelling evidence the government can present against the accused. For example, in Jim Miller murder, there was also forensic evidence that implicated Jessica Kennedy in the killing. But the jury undoubtedly found Kennedy's own statement to police that she was the one who pulled the trigger among the most significant evidence of all.

Ultimately, Jessica Kennedy was found guilty of lesser charges in the murder case. She was not convicted of the murder charge itself, but with facilitating the robbery and murder. While prosecutors stated that even without a confession, they would prosecute Kennedy for the murder, it is unclear if they could have gotten a jury to convict Kennedy without her own statements.

If you have questions about your rights if you are arrested or accused of a crime, or to discuss your case, please contact The Law Office of Troy Bowlin, II so you can speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.