Why Would an Innocent Person Plead the Fifth?

From Ken White at Popehat.

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments to the effect of “why should Lois Lerner take the Fifth if she has nothing to hide?” Ironically these comments often come from people who profess to oppose expansive government power, and from people who accept the proposition that Lerner was part of wrongdoing in the first place — in other words, that there was a government conspiracy to target people with the machinery of the IRS for holding unpopular political views. Such people do not seem to grasp how their predicate assumptions answer their own question.

You take the Fifth because the government can’t be trusted. You take the Fifth because what the truth is, and what the government thinks the truth is, are two very different things. You take the Fifth because even if you didn’t do anything wrong your statements can be used as building blocks in dishonest, or malicious, or politically motivated prosecutions against you. You take the Fifth because if you answer questions truthfully the government may still decide you are lying and prosecute you for lying.

This comes, remember, from a former federal prosecutor.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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4 Responses to Why Would an Innocent Person Plead the Fifth?

  1. lancifer666 says:

    This argument would be more persuasive if the subject of the discussion wasn’t herself accused of abusing government power to abridge the constitutional rights of others.

  2. lancifer666 says:

    But I guess that’s supposed to be the point. Still, it is annoying that a person is trying to use the bill to avoid prosecution for possibly denying others their constitutional rights.

  3. lancifer666 says:

    “Bill” in the above post should be followed by “of rights”.

  4. J@m3z Aitch says:

    But I guess that’s supposed to be the point.
    Yep.

    Still, it is annoying that a person is trying to use the bill [of rights] to avoid prosecution for possibly denying others their constitutional rights.
    It’s also annoying when people use the bill of rights to avoid prosecution for allegedly raping and killing a 4 year old.

    Constitutional case law is built up on criminals demanding their rights. Clarence Earl Gideon wasn’t guilty of the particular crime he was accused of, but he was a petty criminal with prior convictions (Gideon v. Wainwright–right to have the state provide an attorney); Dollree Mapp did have illegal pornographic materials in her home, although they’d probably be legal today (Mapp v. Ohio–Exclusionary rule); Ernesto Miranda was re-convicted of rape on retrial, and later was stabbed to death in a bar fight (Miranda warning).

    On such unlikely “heroes” are our rights secured…to the extent they’re secure at all.

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