There are thousands of scenes from television when a person is arrested and read their “Miranda rights.”

But, what do these rights mean? Where did they come from?

March 13, 1963 – Arizona – Ernesto Miranda is being arrested in his house and taken to the police station where he is questioned by police officers in connection with a kidnapping and rape. After two hours of interrogation, the police obtain a written confession from Miranda.

March 27, 1963 – A judge denies Miranda’s request for a lawyer at his preliminary hearing.

During trial, the written confession is admitted into evidence despite the objection of the defense attorney and the fact that the police officers admitted that they had not advised Miranda of his right to have an attorney present during the interrogation.

The jury finds Miranda guilty. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona affirms his conviction and holds that Miranda’s constitutional rights were not violated because he did not specifically request counsel.

November 15, 1965 – The left leaning Supreme Court of the United States decides to hear Miranda’s appeal along with four similar cases. Each case involves the defendant confessing to guilt after being subjected to a variety of interrogation techniques without being informed of his Fifth Amendment rights during an interrogation.

The question before the Court is whether the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination extends to the police interrogation of a suspect.

June 12, 1966 – In a 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren writes for the majority concluding that the defendant’s interrogation violated the Fifth Amendment.

To protect the privilege, the Court reasons that two important procedural safeguards are required.

  1. A defendant is required to be warned before questioning that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law; and
  2. A defendant is required to be told that he has the right to an attorney, and if he cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.

After these warnings are given, a defendant can knowingly and intelligently waive these rights and agree to answer questions or make a statement. Evidence obtained as a result of interrogation cannot be used against a defendant at trial unless the prosecution demonstrates that the warnings were given, and knowingly and intelligently waived.
March 1, 1967 – During his second trial, an Arizona jury finds Miranda guilty of rape, kidnapping, and robbery without the confession. The judge sentences him to 30 years in prison.

1972 – After only five years in prison, Miranda is released on parole. Miranda is free and enjoying his fame. But, tragedy is on the horizon.

January 31, 1976 – A killer brandishes a knife and stabs Ernesto Miranda to death. Interestingly, the killer is read the warnings that his victim made famous; the “Miranda rights.”

As usual, lawyers argue over the necessity of officers having to read these rights to suspects when they are arrested and when they are being interrogated.

However, the majority got this one right. It takes about 15 seconds for an officer to advise a suspect of their “Miranda rights.” This procedure also adds credibility to our criminal justice system that is currently heavily criticized by both left and right wing advocates.

I don’t know whether Ernesto Miranda committed the crimes he was convicted of. I do know that his case had the largest impact on our criminal justice system since the Founders wrote the Constitution.