On an April night in 1997, when Shonelle Jackson was eighteen, he went out to a local club in Montgomery, Alabama. As he and several friends watched a d.j. perform, a young man called Cocomo—a gang member from across town—walked up behind him and slapped him in the head, then ran off. The next day, Jackson, who had no car, approached a known thief named Antonio Barnes and asked him to steal him a ride. Jackson wanted to find Cocomo and “holler at him.” Barnes hot-wired a Buick LeSabre, and, with Jackson driving, they picked up Barnes’s friends Poochie Williams and Scooter Rudolph. All had been drinking or smoking weed, and they were armed: Jackson had a .380-calibre handgun, Barnes had a .357, Rudolph had a 9-millimetre, and Williams had a shotgun.
"You have the right to remain silent." Any devotee of TV crime dramas or police procedural shows hears the phrase regularly. But new court decisions in recent years have chipped away at that principle. Take the case of California resident Richard Tom. In 2007, he broadsided a car, injuring a girl and killing her sister. At the accident scene, he asked to go home but was told no. He wasn't handcuffed, but police held him in the back of a police car. At no point did he ask the police about the victims. During his trial for vehicular manslaughter, prosecutor Shin-Mee Chang told the jury that Tom's failure to ask about them pointed to the "consciousness of his own guilt."
While there’s a great deal of discussion around the pros and cons of fingerprint authentication, no one’s focusing on the *legal* effects of moving from PINs to fingerprints. Because the constitutional protection of the Fifth Amendment may not apply when it comes to fingerprints (things that reflect who we are) as opposed to passwords and PINs (things we need to know).
Its little-covered ruling in Salinas v. Texas could have major implications for future criminal prosecutions.
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.