Representative Bennie Thompson, who is the chairman of the January 6 committee in the US House of Representatives, said on Thursday that when a defendant uses their right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment, "in some instances, that says you are part and parcel guilty to what occurred."
Thompson made the remarks to Rachel Maddow, who said it was "a fascinating pivot point in this investigation." Thompson's belief that a defendant's use of their 5th Amendment rights infers guilt upon that person is not upheld by the Supreme Court.
In Griffin v. California in 1965, the Supreme Court upheld that if a defendant uses their 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves, neither the state, nor judge, may use the use of that right to tell the jury that silence is evidence of guilt.
Thompson, from his position as chairman of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's special committee on the events of January 6th, has no basis to make this claim and this claim could indicate that the committee is already biased against those they have subpoenaed in their case. Pelosi alone appointed all members of the committee without input from the minority leader Kevin McCarthy.
Thompson made the remarks as the committee has issued subpoenas to more and more people who the committee believes is responsible for what they have termed an "insurrection" on January 6, when some Trump supporters left a rally at the ellipse in Washington, DC, and went to the Capitol.
Trump's supporters went to the Capitol with the intention of stopping the joint session of Congress to vote to certify the electoral college results bringing Joe Biden in as President of the United States.
The committee had voted to hold Jeffrey Clark, former Assistant Attorney General during the Trump administration, in criminal contempt of Congress. This after Clark refused to answer questions or provide documents at a deposition in November. Clark said he would speak with the committee again, delaying the contempt charge.
In response to that, Thompson said "The select committee has no desire to be placed in this situation, but Mr. Clark has left us no other choice. He chose this path. He knew what consequences he might face if he did so. This committee and this House must insist on accountability in the face of that sort of defiance."
The committee wants to ask Clark about his ideas on election fraud during the 2020 US general presidential election, as well as "conversations he might have had with a group of Mr. Trump’s allies who had gathered at a Washington, D.C., hotel in the days before the riot to plan the effort to overturn the election," The New York Times reported.
The 5th Amendment reads:
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
A defendant's refusal to testify, or preference to remain silent, is not meant to be an indictment of guilt in itself. The 5th Amendment guarantees the right to due process, the right to remain silent, the right to not testify against one's own self, and the right to private property.
The 5th Amendment was recently intoned in the Kenosha, Wisc. trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, when the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the homicide case against Rittenhouse tried to claim that Rittenhouse had intimated his own guilt when he refused to speak after he was arrested. Judge Bruce Schroeder, presiding over the case, had harsh words for the prosecutor for using that line of questioning.
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