Fletcher v. Weir

455 U.S. 603, 102 S. Ct. 1309 (1982)



In the absence of the sort of affirmative assurances embodied in the Miranda warnings, it does not violate due process of law for a state to permit cross-examination as to postarrest silence when a defendant chooses to take the stand. A state is entitled, in such situations, to leave to the judge and jury under its own rules of evidence the resolution of the extent to which postarrest silence may be deemed to impeach a criminal defendant's own testimony.


At his trial for intentional murder in a Kentucky state court, the defendant took the stand in his own defense, admitting that he stabbed the victim, but claiming, for the first time, that he acted in self-defense and that the stabbing was accidental. The prosecutor cross-examined the defendant as to why he had, when arrested, failed either to advance his exculpatory explanation to the arresting officers or to disclose the location of the knife he had used to stab the victim. The defendant was convicted of first degree manslaughter, and the conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Subsequently, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky granted the defendant a writ of habeas corpus, and the United States Court of Appeals for Sixth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the defendant was denied due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment when the prosecutor used his post-arrest silence for impeachment purposes, and that, although it did not appear from the record that the arresting officers had immediately read the defendant his Miranda warnings, a defendant cannot be impeached by use of this post-arrest silence even if no Miranda warnings had been given.


Was it a violation of Respondent’s due process rights to use his post-arrest silence for impeachment purposes, where there was no evidence that he had received the required Miranda warnings?




The court states that Miranda warnings, by their very nature, contain an implied assertion that one’s silence will not be used against him. Here, since no Miranda warnings were present, when Respondent chose to take the stand he was open to cross-examination, and no violation of due process occurred.

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