History of the 5th Amendment

Cue Card preview image

General Information

Source:
NBC Nightly News
Creator:
Giselle Fernandez/Rehema Ellis
Event Date:
1791
Air/Publish Date:
09/24/1995
Resource Type:
Video News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
1995
Clip Length:
00:03:21

Description

The self-incrimination clause set forth in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights approved in 1791. It says, "No one shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The Supreme Court expanded the right to cover civil proceedings and even legislative hearings.

Citation

MLA

"History of the 5th Amendment." Rehema Ellis, correspondent. NBC Nightly News. NBCUniversal Media. 24 Sep. 1995. NBC Learn. Web. 5 September 2012.

APA

Ellis, R. (Reporter), & Fernandez, G. (Anchor). (1995, September 24). History of the 5th Amendment. [Television series episode]. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved from https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=2477

CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE

"History of the 5th Amendment" NBC Nightly News, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 09/24/1995. Accessed Wed Sep 5 2012 from NBC Learn: https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=2477

Transcript

History of the 5th Amendment

GISELLE FERNANDEZ, anchor:

IN FOCUS this evening – guilt, innocence, and the Fifth Amendment. It was written back in the 1700s to protect the weak from exploitation by the powerful. In modern America, that part of the Bill of Rights is causing controversies the founders never imagined. NBC’s Rehema Ellis explains.

REHEMA ELLIS reporting:

It is the right many feel is wrong, and it has produced some comic moments.

(Beginning of file footage)

Off-Screen Voice: ...any occupation?

Mr. GERANO MANCUSO (Accused Gangster): I refuse to answer on the grounds that the answer may tend to incriminate me.

Off-Screen Voice: You in any kind of business?

Mr. MANCUSO: I refuse to answer on--on the grounds that the answer may tend to incriminate me.

Off-Screen Voice: Did you ever do a day's work?

Mr. MANCUSO: I refuse to answer on the grounds that the...

(End of footage)

REHEMA ELLIS reporting:

It's the self-incrimination clause set forth in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights approved in 1791. It says, "No one shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The Supreme Court expanded the right to cover civil proceedings and even legislative hearings--by corrupt union leaders...

Mr. ROY WILLIAMS (Later Convicted): (From file footage) I rely on my Fifth Amendment privilege.

ELLIS: ...Iran Contra scandal figures.

Lieutenant Colonel OLIVER NORTH (Conviction Overturned): (From file footage) Mr. Hamilton, on the advice of counsel, I respectfully and regretfully decline to answer the question based on my constitutional rights.

ELLIS: Michael Jackson took the Fifth when bodyguards he fired made allegations involving child molestation. The case was dismissed. Five FBI agents took the Fifth this month during Senate hearings on the shootings at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. They are concerned about criminal charges. And a retired LA policeman used it during the trial of the century.

Mr. GERALD UELMEN: Detective Fuhrman, was the testimony that you gave at the preliminary hearing in this case completely truthful?

Mr. MARK FUHRMAN (Retired Detective): I wish to assert my Fifth Amendment privilege.

Mr. UELMEN: Have you ever falsified a police report?

Mr. FUHRMAN: I wish to assert my Fifth Amendment privilege.

ELLIS: No announcement yet on whether Fuhrman will actually face perjury charges. The Supreme Court says that taking the Fifth should not be interpreted as an indication of guilt, but...

Mr. R.B. BERNSTEIN (Constitutional Historian): Most people think that if you have something to hide you reach for the Fifth Amendment to hide it. Only guilty people, they think, use the Fifth Amendment. Leaving aside that that's just not true, most Americans really do not fully understand what the Bill of Rights is for.

ELLIS: The Fifth Amendment traces its roots to British common law, which actually provides less protection, and even that was further weakened by Parliament. Now, if British defendants refuse to testify, jurors are instructed to hold it against them. Nothing that drastic is likely in this country. Congress has no plans to amend the Constitution, and even if they wanted to weaken the self-incrimination clause, the Supreme Court justices would need a test case to open the door. Earlier this year in the Michigan Law Review, a Yale law professor called the Fifth Amendment `...an unsolved riddle of vast proportions' and proposed that the 200-year-old rules be reinterpreted.

To the founders, the priority was protecting the innocent. The top priority today is convicting the guilty, and the challenge is to do both. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.