Today in 1963, police arrested Ernesto Miranda and charge him with kidnapping and rape. His conviction was ultimately set aside by the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona.
Ernesto Arturo Miranda (March 9, 1941 – January 31, 1976) was a laborer whose conviction on kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery charges based on his confession under police interrogation was set aside in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case (Miranda v. Arizona), which ruled that criminal suspects must be informed of their right against self-incrimination and their right to consult with an attorney before being questioned by police. This warning is known as a Miranda warning.
After the Supreme Court decision set aside Miranda’s initial conviction, the state of Arizona retried him. At the second trial, with his confession excluded from evidence, he was again convicted.
Ernesto Arturo Miranda was born in Mesa, Arizona on March 9, 1941. Miranda began getting in trouble when he was in grade school. Shortly after his mother died, his father remarried. Miranda and his father didn’t get along very well; he kept his distance from his brothers and stepmother as well. Miranda’s first criminal conviction was during his eighth grade year. The following year, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced to a year in reform school.
In 1956, about a month after his release from the reform school, Arizona State Industrial School for Boys (ASISB), he fell afoul of the law once more and was returned to ASISB. Upon his second release from reform school he relocated to Los Angeles, California. Within months of his arrival in LA, Miranda was arrested (but not convicted) on suspicion of armed robbery and for some sex offenses. After two and a half years in custody the 18-year-old Miranda was extradited back to Arizona.
He drifted through 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 for driving a stolen car. Because he had taken the stolen vehicle across state lines, Miranda was sentenced to a year and a day in the federal prison system, serving time in Chillicothe, Ohio and later in Lompoc, California.
The next couple of years Miranda kept out of jail, working at various places, until he became a laborer on the night loading dock for the Phoenix produce company. At that time, he started living with Twila Hoffman, a 29-year-old mother of a boy and a girl by another man, from whom she could not afford a divorce.
Confession without rights, start of Miranda v. Arizona
After the lineup, when Miranda asked what he did, the police implied that he was positively identified. The police got a confession out of Miranda after two hours of interrogation, without informing him of his rights. After unburdening himself to the officers, Miranda was taken to meet the beating victim for positive voice identification. Asked by officers, in her presence, whether this was the victim, Miranda said, “That’s the girl.” The victim stated that the sound of Miranda’s voice matched that of the culprit.
Miranda then wrote his confessions down. At the top of each sheet was the printed certification that “…this statement has been made voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion or promises of immunity and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make can and will be used against me.” Despite the statement on top of the sheets 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. 73-year-old Alvin Moore was assigned to represent him at his trial. The trial took place in mid-June 1963 before Maricopa CountySuperior Court Judge Yale McFate.
Moore objected to entering the confession by Miranda as evidence during the trial but was overruled. 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.
Filing as a pauper, Miranda submitted his plea for a writ of certiorari, or request for review of his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1965. After Alvin Moore was unable to take the case because of health reasons, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Robert J. Corcoran, asked John J. Flynn, a criminal defense attorney, to serve pro bono, along with his partner, John P. Frank, and associates Paul G. Ulrich and Robert A. Jensen of the law firm Lewis & Roca in Phoenix to represent Miranda. They wrote a 2,500 word petition for certiorari that argued that Miranda’s Fifth Amendment rights had been violated and sent it to the United States Supreme Court.
Miranda v. Arizona
In November 1965, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Miranda’s case, Miranda v. Arizona, along with three other similar cases to clear all misunderstandings created by the ruling of Escobedo v. Illinois. That previous case had 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. Pp. 479–492.
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. The first day of the case was on the last day of February 1966. Because of the three other cases and other information the case had a second day of oral arguments on March 1, 1966.
John Flynn and John Paul Frank for Miranda 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 this was not a Fifth Amendment issue but just an attempt to expand the Sixth Amendment Escobedo decision. He urged the justices to clarify their position, but not to push the limits of Escobedo too far. He then told the court that forcing police to advise suspects of their rights would seriously obstruct public safety.
The second day concerned arguments from related cases. Thurgood Marshall, the former NAACP attorney, was the last to argue. In his capacity as the Solicitor General, he presented the Johnson administration’s view of the case: 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 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.
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. They read:
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?
Life after Miranda v. Arizona
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 on testimony given by his estranged de facto wife, but only after he sued for custody of their daughter. 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 for $1.50. Over the next few years, Miranda was arrested numerous times for minor driving offenses and eventually lost the privilege to drive a car. 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 Phoenix, Arizona. Miranda received a lethal wound from a knife, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at Good Samaritan Hospital. Several Miranda cards were found on his person. The suspect, a Mexican national named Ezequiel Moreno, supposedly fled prosecution.
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