Learn About the Law
Get help with your legal needs
At respondent's murder trial in a Michigan court resulting in his conviction, he was asked on cross-examination why he told the jury on direct examination a different story about stealing the murder victim's car than he had told the police officers following his arrest after being given Miranda warnings. After his conviction was affirmed on appeal, respondent unsuccessfully sought a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the cross-examination violated due process under the rule of Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 .
The cross-examination did not violate due process. Doyle, which held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits impeachment on the basis of a defendant's silence following Miranda warnings, does not apply to cross-examination, such as occurred here, that merely inquires into prior inconsistent statements. Such questioning makes no unfair use of silence, because a defendant who voluntarily speaks after receiving Miranda warnings has not been induced to remain silent.
Certiorari granted; 610 F.2d 417, reversed.
Respondent Glenn Charles was arrested in Grand Rapids, Mich., while driving a stolen car. The car belonged to Theodore Ziefle, who had been strangled to death in his Ann Arbor home less than a week earlier. The respondent was charged with first-degree murder. At his trial in the Circuit Court of Washtenaw County, Mich., the State presented circumstantial evidence linking the respondent with the crime. The respondent was found with Ziefle's car and some of his other personal property. The respondent also owned clothing like that worn by the man last seen with the victim, and he boasted to witnesses that he had killed a man and stolen [447 U.S. 404, 405] his car. Police Detective Robert LeVanseler testified that he interviewed the respondent shortly after his arrest. After giving the respondent Miranda warnings, LeVanseler asked him about the stolen automobile. According to LeVanseler, the respondent said that he stole the car in Ann Arbor from the vicinity of Washtenaw and Hill Streets, about two miles from the local bus station.
The respondent testified in his own behalf. On direct examination, he stated that he took Ziefle's unattended automobile from the parking lot of Kelly's Tire Co. in Ann Arbor. On cross-examination, the following colloquy occurred:
In Doyle, we held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits impeachment on the basis of a defendant's silence following Miranda warnings. The case involved two defendants who made no postarrest statements about their involvement in the crime. 2 Each testified at trial that he had been framed. On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked the defendants why they had not told the frameup story to the police upon arrest. We concluded that such impeachment was fundamentally unfair because Miranda warnings inform a person of his right to remain silent and [447 U.S. 404, 408] assure him, at least implicitly, that his silence will not be used against him. 426 U.S., at 618 -619; see Jenkins v. Anderson, ante, at 239-240.
Doyle bars the use against a criminal defendant of silence maintained after receipt of governmental assurances. But Doyle does not apply to cross-examination that merely inquires into prior inconsistent statements. Such questioning makes no unfair use of silence, because a defendant who voluntarily speaks after receiving Miranda warnings has not been induced to remain silent. As to the subject matter of his statements, the defendant has not remained silent at all. See United States v. Agee, 597 F.2d 350, 354-356 (CA3) (en banc), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 944 (1979); United States v. Mireles, 570 F.2d 1287, 1291-1293 (CA5 1978); United States v. Goldman, 563 F.2d 501, 503-504 (CA1 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1067 (1978).
In this case, the Court of Appeals recognized that the respondent could be questioned about prior statements inconsistent with his trial testimony. The court therefore approved the "latter portion of the above quoted cross-examination. . . ." 610 F.2d, at 421. But the Court of Appeals found that "the earlier portion of the exchange" concerned the "separate issu[e]" of the respondent's "failure to tell arresting officers the same story he told the jury." Ibid. In the court's view, these questions were unconstitutional inquiries about postarrest silence. Thus, the Court of Appeals divided the cross-examination into two parts. It then applied Doyle to bar questions that concerned the respondent's failure to tell the police the story he recounted at trial.
We do not believe that the cross-examination in this case can be bifurcated so neatly. The quoted colloquy, taken as a whole, does "not refe[r] to the [respondent's] exercise of his right to remain silent; rather [it asks] the [respondent] why, if [his trial testimony] were true, he didn't tell the officer that he stole the decedent's car from the tire store parking lot instead of telling him that he took it from the [447 U.S. 404, 409] street." 58 Mich. App., at 381, 227 N. W. 2d, at 354. Any ambiguity in the prosecutor's initial questioning was quickly resolved by explicit reference to Detective LeVanseler's testimony, which the jury had heard only a few hours before. The questions were not designed to draw meaning from silence, but to elicit an explanation for a prior inconsistent statement.
We conclude that Doyle does not apply to the facts of this case. Each of two inconsistent descriptions of events may be said to involve "silence" insofar as it omits facts included in the other version. But Doyle does not require any such formalistic understanding of "silence," and we find no reason to adopt such a view in this case.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
[ Footnote 2 ] One defendant said nothing at all. The other asked arresting officers, "[W]hat's this all about?" 426 U.S., at 615 , n. 5. When told the reason for his arrest, he exclaimed "you got to be crazy," or "I don't know what you are talking about." Id., at 622-623, n. 4 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). Both the Court and the dissent in Doyle analyzed the due process question as if both defendants had remained silent. The issue was said to involve cross-examination of a person who "does remain silent" after police inform him that he is legally entitled to do so. Id., at 620 (STEVENS, J., dissenting); see id., at 616-619; id., at 621, 622, 626 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). In any event, neither the inquiry nor the exclamation quoted above contradicted the defendant's later trial testimony. [447 U.S. 404, 410]
Was this helpful?
Get help with your legal needs
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)