Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lawyers Do Not Get Their Own Logic

Now I've returned to the world of crushing drudgery, I've been catching up on my reading regarding what's going on out there.  As usual, I've ended up dragged inescapably towards the kinds of logical black holes only the very most important legal authorities can generate:
Petitioner claims that reliance on the Fifth Amendment privilege is the most likely explanation for silence in a case like his, but such silence is "insolubly ambiguous." See Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U. S. 610, 617. To be sure, petitioner might have declined to answer the officer's question in reliance on his constitutional privilege. But he also might have done so because he was trying to think of a good lie, because he was embarrassed, or because he was protecting someone else. Not every such possible explanation for silence is probative of guilt, but neither is every possible explanation protected by the Fifth Amendment. Petitioner also suggests that it would be unfair to require a suspect unschooled in the particulars of legal doctrine to do anything more than remain silent in order to invoke his "right to remain silent." But the Fifth Amendment guarantees that no one may be"compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," not an unqualified "right to remain silent." 
In summary, a person can be considered guilty for remaining silent because we don't know the reason they remained silent was because they wanted to avoid self-incrimination.  Maybe they weren't going to incriminate themselves at all.  How incriminating! Further, the Constitution's specification that people cannot be compelled to testify against themselves in court means that doing it outside of court and just repeating it at the trial must by definition be fine.

Sam Alito, everyone.  The only person in the world bummed that Kafka never finished The Trial because he was hoping to pick up more pointers.  Some Supreme Justices stay in their seats for life, but I assume Alito's just hanging in there until he can finally get someone executed for keeping newborn babies alive or curing cancer.

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