Ernesto Miranda

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Ernesto Miranda

Ernesto Arturo Miranda ( b. March 9, 1941, Mesa, Arizona - d. January 31, 1976, Phoenix, Arizona) laborer, whose conviction on rape charges based solely on his confession under police interrogation in which he was not informed of his rights to counsel and to remain silent before he confessed to the police, resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court case (Miranda v. Arizona) which ruled that a police officer upon arresting a person was to read him his rights to counsel and to remain silent.


Life before Miranda v. Arizona

Ernesto Arturo Miranda was born on March 9, 1941, Mesa, Arizona. Miranda started to get in trouble when he was in grade school in Mesa, shortly after his mother died and his father remarried. Miranda and his father didn’t get along very well, and he kept his distance from his brothers and step-mother, as well. Miranda had his first criminal conviction when he was in 8th grade. The following year, he was arrested and convicted of burglary, and sentenced to a year in reform school.

In 1956 about a month after he was released from his reform school, Arizona State Industrial School for Boys he got in to trouble again and was returned there. By this time Miranda had dropped out of school. When he was released from the reform school, he went to Los Angeles, California. Within months of his arrival in LA, Miranda was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery, (but not convicted) and for some minor sex offenses. After two and a half years in custody the 18 year old Miranda was deported back to Arizona.

At that time he decided to join the army. During his army service he received many AWOL charges and charges for spying on other peoples' sexual activities. He also spent spent six months in the Fort Campbell, Kentucky stockade at hard labor. After 15 months in the service, during which time he was ordered to consult a psychiatrist but only went to one session, Miranda was dishonorably discharged.

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. 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 different jobs without a steady job, 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.

According to the Phoenix police, Miranda repeatedly abducted, kidnapped, raped and robbed young women during this time. His searching grounds for victims were so limited though, that in March 1963, his truck was spotted and license plates recognized by the brother of an 18 year old rape victim (the victim had given the brother a description). With his description of the car and a partial license plate number, Phoenix police officers Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young, arrested Miranda, took him to the station house and placed him in a lineup.

After the lineup, when Miranda asked how 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 rape victim for positive voice identification. Asked by officers, in her presence, whether this was the victim, Miranda said, "That's the girl." Not surprisingly, 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 the confessor makes "…this statement 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 may be used against me." Despite the statement on top of the sheets that Miranda was confessing "with full knowledge of my legal right," 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 County Superior 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.

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John Frank
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John Flynn

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 or ACLU attorney Robert J. Corcoran, got John J. Flynn, a reputable criminal defense attorney, his partner, John P. Frank, and an associate Peter D. Baird to represent Miranda. They wrote a 2,500 word writ of certiorari that argued that Miranda's Sixth Amendment rights had been violated and sent it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Miranda v. Arizona

In November, 1965, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Miranda's case, Miranda v. Arizona along with four other similar cases to clear all misunderstandings the ruling of Escobedo v. Illinois, which ruled that " when police are no longer conducting a general inquiry into an unsolved crime but are focusing on a particular suspect in custody, refusing to allow that suspect to consult with an attorney and failing to warn the suspect of his right to remain silent is denial of the assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment", had created. 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 have not been violated. The first day of the case was on the last day of February 1966 (because of the four other cases and other information the case had a second day of oral arguments on March 1st 1966).

John Flynn argued first, for Miranda. He first 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 and that an emotionally disturbed man like Miranda, who had a limited education, shouldn’t 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 a attempt to expand its 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 had others from the other cases and some argue. Thurgood Marshall, the former NAACP attorney was the last to present his stand on the case.

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion in Miranda v. Arizona. The decision was in favor of Miranda. It stated that (not the exact words) "law enforcement officials would have to ensure that detainees have been briefed on and understand their Constitutional rights". The opinion was released on June 13, 1966. Because of the ruling, police departments around the country started to inform suspects they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them, that they have the right to an attorney and that if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided free of charge.

Life after Miranda v. Arizona

Only Miranda's rape charge was dropped. A robbery charge was still valid and another trial was decided to be held on the rape charge (without the confession as evidence) soon after the decision. He was quickly re-sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison for kidnapping and rape due to a confession he had made to his wife.

After serving one-third of his sentence and being turned down for parole four times Miranda was paroled in December 1972. After his release, he started selling autographed Miranda Warning cards for $1.50. Over the next years Miranda was arrested numerous times for minor driving offenses and eventually lost his privilege to drive a car. He was arrested for the possession of a gun but the charges were dropped. But because this violated his parole he was sent back to Arizona State Prison for another year.

After his release, Miranda spent most of his time in poorly kept bars and cheap hotels in the bad section of Phoenix. On January 31, 1976, Miranda, then working as a delivery driver, participated in a card game at the La Amapola Bar. A violent fight broke out, and Miranda was mortally wounded with a knife and was dead on arrival at Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 34 years old. A suspect was arrested and read the Miranda warning. He then declined to give a statement. The suspect was released and supposedly fled to Mexico. The Miranda murder case was closed without apprehending the murderer.

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