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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested

I meant to post this blog last week. Life got in the way. You know what? Sue me. That is what my father used to say. If you don't like it "sue me."
But before you do, make sure you advise me of my rights. You must Mirandize me. We hear that term all the time on cop shows and we hear suspects read their rights all the time.
You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost. During any questioning, you may decide at any time to exercise these rights, not answer any questions or make any statements. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?

How many times in your life have you heard that? I have probably heard it more than a thousand times, being that I am an avid watcher of cop shows since my youngest years. I certainly have seen every episode of Law And Order, and many a lot more than once.

Since this blog is a week late, that is appropriate. Because if you don't read them their Miranda rights in a timely manner, you likely won't be able to convict even the most guilty of criminals.
But why do they call them Miranda rights? 

Well, while most know the phrase and know they are called Miranda rights, I doubt many know why. Just over 40 years ago a court case made this come to be. 
Today, I am discussing how Miranda rights came to be called Miranda rights. 

During the 1960s, a movement which provided defendants with legal aid emerged from the collective efforts of various bar associations.
In the civil realm, it led to the creation of the Legal Services Corporation under the Great Society program of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Escobedo v. Illinois, a case which closely foreshadowed Miranda, provided for the presence of counsel during police interrogation. This concept extended to a concern over police interrogation practices, which were considered by many to be barbaric and unjust. Coercive interrogation tactics were known in period slang as the "third degree".

On March 13, 1963, a man named Ernesto Miranda kidnapped and raped a woman in Phoenix, Arizona. His truck was spotted and license plates recognized by the brother of the17-year-old kidnapping and rape victim, Lois Ann Jameson after she had given her brother a description. With his description of the car and a partial license plate number, Phoenix police officers arrested Miranda based on circumstantial evidence, took him to the station house and placed him in a lineup. But that is the middle of the story. Lets go back to where Miranda started from and how he got to that point. It is relevant to why he probably won his case in Supreme Court and why we know of these rights as Miranda rights to this day. It is very possible that had he not been who he was that this law would not have come into effect.
Ernesto Miranda was born in Mesa, Arizona on March 9, 1941. By the time he arrived in Phoenix and committed the kidnapping and rape of Lois Jameson in 1963, he had a long history of getting in trouble with the law.
Miranda began getting in trouble when he was in grade school. His first criminal conviction was during eighth grade. The following year, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced to a year in reform school.
In 1956 after his release from the reform school he was in trouble with the law again. After his second release from reform school he relocated to Los Angeles. Within months of his arrival in LA, Miranda was arrested (but not convicted) on suspicion of armed robbery and for some minor sex offenses. After two and a half years in custody the 18-year-old Miranda was extradited back to Arizona.

He drifted around the south for a few months, spending time in jail in Texas for living on the street without money or a place to live, and was arrested in Nashville driving a stolen car. After another stint in two jails, one in Ohio and another in California, Miranda kept out of jail for the next two years, working at various places, until he became a laborer for the Phoenix produce company. 
 After Miranda was put in the lineup he asked what he had done and they told him that he had been positively identified for the Jameson rape and kidnapping. Based on that, and still not represented by council, within two hours the police obtained a confession out of him. It should be noted that Miranda suffered from extreme mental problems and barely had a grade 9 education. It was certainly plausible that he didn't fully understand his legal rights like most might.
After the confession, Miranda was taken to a room and Jameson identified him by his voice. She stated that the sound of Miranda's voice matched that of the culprit.
Believing that they had solid proof to convict him in court,
Miranda then wrote his confessions down.
He did initial the top of each page of the confession stating that he understood his rights, but his rights had never been explained or read to him. 
Despite the statement on top of each sheet that Miranda was confessing "with full knowledge of my legal rights," he was not informed of his right to have an attorney present or of his right to remain silent. Alvin Moore was assigned to represent him at his trial which took place in June of 1963.

Despite the objection of Moore to the entering the confession by Miranda as evidence during the trial he was overruled and the confession was allowed in. Mostly because of the confession, Miranda was convicted of rape and kidnapping and sentenced to 20 to 30 years on both charges. Moore appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court but the charges were upheld there as well.
Miranda then submitted his plea, or request for review of his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1965. His new lawyer, John J. Flynn and his partner John P. Frank wrote a 2,500 word petition that argued that Miranda's Fifth Amendment rights had been violated and sent it to the United States Supreme Court.
In November 1965, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Miranda's case, Miranda v. Arizona. As well, there were   three other similar cases to clear all misunderstandings created by the ruling of Escobedo v. Illinois. In that previous case it was ruled that,

 Under the circumstances of this case, where a police investigation is no longer a general inquiry into an unsolved crime but has begun to focus on a particular suspect in police custody who has been refused an opportunity to consult with his counsel and who has not been warned of his constitutional right to keep silent, the accused has been denied the assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, and no statement extracted by the police during the interrogation may be used against him at a trial. Crooker v. California, 357 U.S. 433, and Cicenia v. Lagay, 357 U.S. 504, distinguished, and, to the extent that they may be inconsistent with the instant case, they are not controlling.

In January 1966, Flynn and Frank submitted their argument stating that Miranda's Sixth Amendment right to counsel had been violated by the Phoenix Police Department. Two weeks later the state of Arizona responded by stating that Miranda's rights had not been violated. Flynn and Frank outlined the case and then stated that Miranda had not been advised of his right to remain silent when he had been arrested and questioned, adding the Fifth Amendment argument to his case. Flynn contended that an emotionally disturbed man like Miranda, who had a limited education, should not be expected to know his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
Gary Nelson spoke for the people of Arizona, arguing that  forcing police to advise suspects of their rights would seriously obstruct public safety.
Thurgood Marshall in his capacity as the Solicitor General, argued that the government did not have the resources to appoint a lawyer for every indigent person who was accused of a crime. Chief Justice Earl Warren (the man who would head the commission investing the assassination of JFK) wrote the opinion in Miranda v. Arizona. The decision was in favor of Miranda. It stated that:

 The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

Warren pointed to the existing practice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, both of which required notifying a suspect of his right to remain silent; the FBI warning included notice of the right to counsel.
A confession obtained in violation of the Miranda standards may nonetheless be used for purposes of impeaching the defendant's testimony: that is, if the defendant takes the stand at trial and the prosecution wishes to introduce the defendant's confession as a prior inconsistent statement to attack the defendant's credibility, the Miranda holding will not prohibit this.
 The opinion was released on June 13, 1966. Because of the ruling, police departments around the country started to issue Miranda Warning cards to their officers to recite.
 The Supreme Court set aside Miranda's conviction, which was tainted by the use of the confession that had been obtained through improper interrogation. The state of Arizona retried him. At the second trial, his confession was not introduced into evidence, but he was convicted again He was sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison.
Miranda was paroled in 1972. After his release, he started selling autographed Miranda Warning cards. Over the next years, Miranda was arrested numerous times for minor driving offenses. He was arrested for the possession of a gun but the charges were dropped. However, because this violated his parole he was sent back to Arizona State Prison for another year. On January 31, 1976, after his release for violating his parole, a violent fight broke out in a bar in Kingman, Arizona. Miranda received a lethal wound from a knife. Several Miranda cards were found on his person. 
To this day, a law that now ensures that all people are advised of their constitutional rights is named after a kidnapper and rapist who actually got away with rape and kidnapping until he was retried. His legacy is not one of crime, but one of protecting citizens rights. If the police had read him his rights on that first interrogation, then we would likely have never heard of him. And they wouldn't be called Miranda rights. 
"Miranda Rights" we take for granted today, reconciled the increasing police powers of the state with the basic rights of individuals. In the end, Ernesto Miranda got the justice he likely deserved, and in the future, those who might be taken in by the use of police powers will have protection against them because of how Miranda was treated while in custody in March of 1963, just about 40 years ago this week.

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