Miranda v Arizona
Miranda v. Arizona (Forensic Science)
The case of Miranda v. Arizona dealt with the admissibility of statements obtained by the police during the interrogation of persons in police custody. On March 3, 1963, an eighteen-year-old girl was abducted and raped in Phoenix, Arizona. Ten days later, Ernesto Miranda was arrested by Phoenix police, taken to police headquarters, and placed in a lineup. The victim identified Miranda as her attacker. Miranda subsequently confessed to the crime and was sentenced to a term of twenty to thirty years on each count.
Miranda appealed his conviction on the grounds that he had not been advised of his right, under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to remain silent when police questioned him. In 1965, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that because Miranda had previously been arrested in California and Tennessee, he had knowingly waived his Fifth Amendment right, as well as his Sixth Amendment right to counsel before questioning, when he gave his confession to Phoenix police. Miranda appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Arizona Supreme Court in a five-to-four decision and established precedent rules for police custodial interrogation. The Supreme Court ruled that suspects taken into police custody must be informed of their rights to remain silent, to have counsel present during any questioning, and to be represented by state-appointed counsel if they cannot afford...
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Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Kelly-Gangi, Carol. Miranda v. Arizona and the Rights of the Accused: Debating Supreme Court Decisions. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow, 2006.
Vanmeter, Larry A. Great Supreme Court Decisions: Miranda v. Arizona. New York: Chelsea House, 2006.
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Miranda v. Arizona Requires Police to Tell Arrested People Their Rights (Great Events from History II: Human Rights Series)
Article abstract: The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Miranda v. Arizona that arrested persons must be informed of their rights to remain silent and to counsel before police interrogation may begin.
Summary of Event
Miranda v. Arizona was one of a series of landmark Supreme Court cases of the mid-1960’s establishing new guarantees of procedural fairness for defendants in criminal cases. The Court’s decision in Miranda sprang from two different lines of precedents under the Fourteenth Amendment. One of these lines was the right-to-counsel cases: Powell v. Alabama (1932), in which the Court held that indigent defendants had to be afforded counsel in capital cases; Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), which extended the right to counsel for indigent defendants to all felony cases; and Escobedo v. Illinois (1964), in which the Court held that a confession obtained from a defendant who had asked for and been denied permission to speak to an attorney was inadmissible. By 1964, the right to counsel had expanded to include mandatory representation for indigents at trial in all felonies and also gave potential defendants the right to representation during questioning while in custody if they requested it. The second line of cases culminated with Malloy v. Hogan (1964), in which the Court had held that the privilege against self-incrimination applied to the states. Moreover, prior...
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Miranda v Arizona (Supreme Court Drama)
Petitioner: Ernesto Miranda
Respondent: State of Arizona
Petitioner's Claim: That the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination protects a suspect's right to be informed of his constitutional rights during police questioning and applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Chief Lawyer for Petitioner: John Flynn
Chief Lawyer for Respondents: Gary K. Nelson
Justices for the Court: Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Abe Fortas, Earl Warren
Justices Dissenting: Tom C. Clark, John Marshall Harlan II, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White
Date of Decision: June 13, 1966
Decision: The Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination requires that suspects be informed of their constitutional rights before questioning by the police when they are in police custody.
Significance: Few events have altered the course of American criminal law more than the events surrounding the 1963 rape conviction of Ernesto Miranda. The only strong evidence against him was a confession he made while in police custody. The events surrounding that confession captured the nations attention and prompted a landmark United States Supreme Court decision.
In Phoenix, Arizona, during the early hours of March 3, 1963, an eighteen-year-old movie theater attendant was kidnapped by a stranger while on her way home from work. The stranger dragged her into his car, drove out into the desert, and raped her. Afterwards, he dropped her off near her home.
The young woman's story of the events was vague and confusing. She described her attacker as a Mexican in his late twenties wearing glasses. He drove an early 1950s car, either a Ford or Chevrolet.
By chance, one week later, the woman and her brother-in-law saw what she believed was the car of her attacker, a 1953 Packard, license plate number DFL-312. License records showed that this plate was actually registered to a late model Oldsmobile. But plate number DFL-317 was a Packard, registered to a woman, Twila N. Hoffman. Further investigation showed that her boyfriend, Ernesto Miranda, age twenty-three, fit the attacker's description almost exactly.
Ernesto Miranda had a long history of criminal behavior. He had served a one-year jail term for attempted rape. Police put him into a lineup with three other Mexicans of similar height and build, though none wore glasses. The victim did not positively identify Miranda, but told detectives that he looked most like her attacker.
Detectives Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young took Miranda into another room for questioning. They told him, incorrectly, that the victim had identified him as her attacker from the line-up. They asked him to make a statement. Two hours later, Ernesto Miranda signed a written confession. He was not forced to sign the statement. The detectives did not physically or verbally abuse him. The confession even included a section stating that he understood his rights.
Miranda was given a lawyer, appointed by the court, to represent him because he did not have enough money to hire his own attorney. His lawyer, Alvin Moore, studied the evidence against Miranda. The case against him was very strong, with the most damaging evidence being his confession to the crime. Moore found the events surrounding the statement troubling. Convinced it had been obtained improperly, he intended to ask the court suppress this evidence and not permit his admission of guilt to come into evidence and be heard by the jury.
Only four witnesses appeared to testify for the prosecution: the victim, her sister, and Detectives Cooley and Young. In his closing argument to the jury, the prosecutor, Deputy County Attorney Laurence Turoff, told the jury that Ernesto Miranda, by the use of force and violence, raped the victim.
In Miranda's defense, Attorney Moore was able to point out several inconsistencies in the victim's story, including the fact that she had no physical injuries after her supposed attack. In his cross-examination of Detective Cooley, Attorney Moore made his most important point:
Question: Officer Cooley, in the taking of this statement, what did you say to the defendant to get him to make this statement?
Answer: I asked the defendant if he would . . . write the same story that he just told me, and he said that he would.
Question: Did you warn him of his rights?
Answer: Yes, sir, at the heading of the statement is a paragraph typed out, and I read this paragraph to him out loud.
Question: I don't see in the statement that it says where he is entitled to the advice of an attorney before he made it.
Answer: No, sir.
Question: Is it not your practice to advise people you arrest that they are entitled to the services of an attorney before they make a statement?
Answer: No, sir.
Based on this testimony, Moore asked the judge to keep the jury from hearing Miranda's confession. Judge Yale McFate overruled him. The judge gave the jury a well-balanced and fair account of the law as it stood at the time and permitted them to hear the confession. In 1963, the law did not include a constitutional right to remain silent at any time before the beginning of a trial.
Consequently, on June 27, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to two concurrent sentences of twenty-to-thirty years imprisonment. Concurrent sentences run at the same time.
However, Alvin Moore's arguments about the confession touched off a legal debate. Miranda's conviction was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 13, 1966, Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing the decision for a 5 majority, established guidelines about what is and what is not acceptable police behavior in an interrogation:
Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed . . .
With Miranda's conviction overturned, the State of Arizona was forced to free its now famous prisoner. Without his confession, the state stood little chance of getting a second conviction.
It was Ernesto Miranda himself who brought about his own downfall. He expected to be released after the Supreme Court decision so he had begun a battle for custody of his daughter with Twila Hoffman, his common-law wife. A common-law marriage is an informal marriage where the couple has no license or ceremony but live together, with the intent to be married and tell others that they are married. Hoffman, angry and fearful, told authorities about a conversation with Miranda after his arrest, in which he had admitted the rape. This new evidence was all Arizona needed.
Miranda's second trial began February 15, 1967. Most of the arguments took place in the judge's private chambers. This time the main issue was whether Hoffman, his common-law wife could testify against Miranda, her common-law husband. Judge Lawrence K. Wren ruled that Hoffman's testimony could be allowed as evidence and Hoffman was allowed to tell her story to the jury. Miranda was convicted for a second time and sentenced him to twenty-to-thirty-years in jail.
On January 31, 1976, four years after his released from prison on parole, Ernesto Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight. The killer fled but his accomplice (helper) was caught. Before taking him to police headquarters for questioning, the arresting officers read the suspect his "Miranda rights."
The importance of this case cannot be overstated. Although presidents from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan have publicly disagreed with it, the Miranda decision remains law. Originally intended to protect the poor and the ignorant, the practice of "reading the defendant his rights" has become standard procedure in every police department in the country. The practice is seen so frequently in police movies and shows that the Miranda warnings are as familiar to most Americans as the Pledge of Allegiance.
Suggestions for further reading
Baker, Liva. Miranda: Crime, Law and Politics. New York: Atheneum, 1983.
Graham, Fred P. The SelfInflicted Wound. New York: Macmillan Co., 1970.
Skene, Neil. "The Miranda Ruling." Congressional Quarterly (June 6, 1991): 164.
Tucker, William. "The Long Road Back." National Review (October 18, 1985): 285.