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“You Have The Right To Remain Silent”
The strange story behind the most cited case in American history: THE MIRANDA DECISION
August/September 2006 | Volume 57, Issue 4
She was in hysterics and incoherent. But 15 minutes later she was able to tell her sister that a man had forced her into his car and taken her out to the desert. Her sister called the police.
In the early hours of March 3, 1963, a policeman was dispatched to a home on Citrus Way to investigate the possible kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old girl. Jane Doe gave a brief version of the events, and the officer took her to Good Samaritan Hospital to be examined.
The detectives said they never threatened Miranda or offered him leniency. He told a different story.
The Phoenix Detective Bureau was notified, and two detectives conducted a more thorough interview. There were problems with the ID of the rapist. At the hospital Jane described her attacker as a “Mexican male, twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old, five feet eleven inches, 175 pounds, slender build, medium complexion with black, short-cut, curly hair, wearing Levi’s, a white T-shirt, and dark-rim glasses.” When asked again later for a description, she was suddenly unsure about his nationality. He had no accent, she explained, and might have been Italian “or similar foreign extraction” or Mexican.
The vague and inconsistent accounts gave little concrete information to justify continuing the investigation. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the police and Jane Doe caught a break.
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Since the incident Jane’s brother-in-law had begun meeting her after work at her bus stop. A week after the alleged abduction he noticed an old Packard creeping past them along Marlette. He took note of the license plate, DFL-312, and contacted the police. The four-door 1953 Packard belonged to Twila N. Hoffman.
After a 12-hour graveyard shift, a weary Ernesto Miranda returned home to 2525 West Maricopa at 8:00 a.m. and went to bed. An hour later the detectives arrived. They asked Miranda to accompany them to the police station to discuss a case under investigation. At the station Miranda was placed in a four-man lineup. When Jane Doe stepped into the viewing room, she could not positively identify him.
The officers led the nervous Miranda into a small interrogation room.
“How did I do?” he asked.
“Not too good, Ernie,” one of the detectives lied.
In what seemed a futile gesture, Miranda’s lawyer decided he would ask about the interrogation.
Then the questions began. There was no rough stuff. The entire interrogation took two hours. The detectives said they never threatened Miranda or promised him leniency. Miranda told a different story: “… I haven’t had any sleep since the day before. I’m tired. I just got off work, and they have me there interrogating me… . They mention first one crime, and then another one, they are certain I am the person… . They start badgering you one way or the other … ‘you better tell us … or we’re going to throw the book at you’ … that is what was told to me. They told me that they would throw the book at me… .”
Whichever version was true, Miranda admitted to the rape and kidnapping.
After his brief confession, the detectives brought Jane Doe into the room. One of them asked Miranda if this was the person he had raped. Miranda looked at her and said, “That’s the girl.”
Following this bizarre reverse lineup, Miranda went on to give a more detailed account, closely corroborating Jane Doe’s story.
When asked to formalize his confession in a written statement, he agreed. Across the top of the statement was a typewritten disclaimer saying that the suspect was confessing voluntarily, without threats or promises of immunity, and “with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me.” He signed the disclaimer. The district attorney filed charges against Ernesto Arturo Miranda for the rape and kidnapping of Jane Doe, and the most cited case in American legal history was born.
Miranda’s interrogation was very different from what it would have been during the first half of the twentieth century.