The Fifth Amendment is about.....
Former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay asserted his Fifth Amendment rights before the Senate Commerce committee today, "respectfully declining to answer" any of the committee's questions. What is the history behind, and rationale for, the Fifth Amendment right not to testify against oneself?
The Fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that "no person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The right was created in reaction to the excesses of the Courts of star chamber and High Commission—British courts of equity that operated from 1487-1641. These courts utilized the inquisitorial method of truth-seeking as opposed to the prosecutorial, meaning that prosecutors did not bear the burden of proving a case, but that sufficient "proof" came from browbeating confessions out of the accused.
A Supreme court case
On Monday, in a case called Salivas 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. The court’s move to cut off the right to remain silent is wrong and also dangerous—because it encourages the kind of high-pressure questioning that can elicit false confessions.
Here are the facts from Salinas: Two brothers were shot at home in Houston. There were no witnesses—only shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Genovevo Salinas had been at a party at that house the night before the shooting, and police invited him down to the station, where they talked for an hour. They did not arrest him or read him his Miranda warnings. Salinas agreed to give the police his shotgun for testing. Then the cops asked whether the gun would match the shells from the scene of the murder. According to the police, Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet, bit his lip, and started to tighten up.
description of the amendment
cited sources for supreme court cases