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"You have 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 be speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense."

Miranda, Ernesto

(1941.03.09-1976.01.31)  Rapist.

Lived in Mesa

Arrested in Phoenix

Died in Phoenix

For nearly 40 years police have been reading suspects their rights because of a landmark 1966 United States Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona.1  That case had its origins in an interrogation room of the Phoenix Police Department.

Phoenix Police Headquarters.
The Phoenix Police Headquarters at Washington and 7th Avenues. 8-01

Ernesto Miranda was an eighth grade drop out with a criminal record and pronounced sexual fantasies.  On March 13, 1963, Phoenix police went to his home and arrested him for the kidnap and rape of a mildly retarded 18-year-old woman.  He was taken to a police station where a witness identified him. Two officers questioned him in "Interrogation Room No. 2" of the detective bureau. Two hours later, the officers emerged from the interrogation room with a written confession signed by Miranda.  The confession had a paragraph typed at the top which stated the confession was made "with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me."

Ernesto Miranda, 1963.

At trial, no evidence was presented that Miranda had ever been told that he did not have to talk to police or that he had the right to a lawyer.  The defense objected to letting the jury see the confession, but the judge overruled the objection.  He allowed the jury to consider the written confession as well as officers testimony about an oral confession made during the interrogation.

The jury found Miranda found guilty of kidnapping and rape.  He was sentenced to 20 to 30 years on each of the two counts, to be served concurrently.

The "old" Maricopa County Superior Court building.
The "old" Maricopa County Superior Court Building at Washington and Central Avenues, erected in 1928.  8-01

The Supreme Court of the United States reviewed the case and found that Miranda's Fifth Amendment2  right against self incrimination had been violated. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the majority opinion of the Supreme Court which stated that in order to combat the "inherently compelling pressures which work to undermine the individual's will to resist" during in-custody interrogation, "to permit a full opportunity to exercise the privilege against self-incrimination, the accused must be adequately and effectively apprised of his rights and the exercise of those rights must be fully honored."  The court's opinion went on to state the now familiar statement beginning with "You have the right to remain silent."

The result of the failure to give the Miranda warning does not automatically result in the defendant going free.  It only means that the confession cannot be used against the defendant.  Ernesto Miranda was tried again without the confession.  He was convicted and served 11 years before he was paroled in 1972.

After several other returns to prison on other charges, he was stabbed to death during an argument in a bar in 1976.  He was 34.  A suspect was arrested, but he chose to exercise his right to remain silent after being read his Miranda rights.  The suspect was released, and no one was ever charged with the murder.

The "old" Maricopa County Superior Court building.
Grave of Ernesto Miranda at the Mesa City Cemetery.  The inscription in the blue border at the top reads, "Beloved brother and friend."  3-02

There were two attorneys practicing in Phoenix at the time who had nothing to do with the Miranda case as it was winding its way through the courts, but would decades later be intimately involved with it.  Those attorneys were William H. Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Conner. The Supreme Court which handed down the Miranda decision, lead by Chief Justice Earl Warren, is widely regarded as the most liberal Supreme Court there has ever been.  When President and one time Prescott carnival barker Richard Nixon had the opportunity to appoint a justice in 1971, he looked for an appropriate conservative choice.  He found William Rehnquist.  When President and frequent Arizona visitor Ronald Reagan was searching for another conservative appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court 1981, he selected Sandra Day O'Conner.

The Miranda case has been the subject of a number of books.  One of the best, and the most readable, is Gary L. Stuart's Miranda, the Story of America's Right to Remain Silent.  Mr. Stuart, in law school at the time of the arrest, joined the law firm took Miranda's case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  2-05.

The Miranda decision was seriously challenged when Congress enacted 18 U. S. C. 3501.  That statute allows a confession to be admitted into evidence if it is found to be voluntary, even if the defendant was not given the Miranda warning.  The Supreme Court reviewed this statute in Dickerson v. U.S., No. 99-5525 (June 26, 2000).  The character of the Supreme Court, which then included two conservative appointments from Arizona, had changed radically.  That court, widely regarded as the most conservative Supreme Court ever, found that the statute was an invalid attempt to change the result of the Miranda case.  In a 7-2 vote, it held that the Miranda warning requirement was based on the constitution, and that Congress could not change it by legislation.  As a result, the requirement that the Miranda warnings be given in order for a statement of the defendant to be admitted into evidence continues to be the law, and has an ever greater majority on the Supreme Court than the original holding.


1.   Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).  The Miranda case from which the rule takes its name was one of 4 cases combined for review by the Supreme Court where a confession taken without the defendant being advised of his rights was admitted at trial.  The other cases were:  Vignera v. New York [Michael Vignera was convicted of the robbery of a Brooklyn dress shop.  He was subsequently adjudged a third-felony offender and sentenced to 30 to 60 years' imprisonment. Lower court conviction reversed.];  Westover v. United States [Carl Calvin Westover was convicted of  robberies of a savings & loan and a bank in California.  He received two consecutive 15 year sentences. Lower courts conviction reversed.];  California v. Stewart [Roy Allen Stewart was convicted and sentenced to death for robbery and murder arising out of a purse-snatch robbery in which the victim had died.  Appellate court's reversal affirmed.]  John J. Flynn argued the case for Miranda, and Gary K. Nelson, Assistant Attorney General of Arizona argued the case for the State of Arizona. Back to text

2.  "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."  "Bill of Rights," Constitution of the United States, Amendment V. [Emphasis added.] Back to text


 
 
 
 
 
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