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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
Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture.”
Thirty-four years after Earl Warren drafted M iranda v. Arizona , the Mi randa rights had become so intertwined with the American justice system that most Americans assumed that a reading of these rights was constitutionally required.
In short, Dickerson not only made the Miranda warnings an explicit constitutional right but seemed to forever shield the doctrine from congressional action.
And what of Ernesto Miranda?
He learned of the Supreme Court’s decision while watching television in the Arizona State Prison. Did this mean he was free? Had a panel of nine strangers released the 26-year-old felon from his confinement?
Not exactly. The Warren Court merely ruled that his confession was inadmissible during his trial. Consequently, the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office vowed to retry the case, this time without the confession.
Waiting for his trial, Miranda enjoyed his newfound celebrity. The most popular inmate at the Arizona State Prison, he could frequently be seen telling his story, offering advice, and signing autographs.
Miranda’s second trial was originally slated for October 24, 1966, just a few months after the Supreme Court decision. But with the consent of both parties, the trial was postponed for four months so that Jane Doe, who had recently married, could give birth to her first child.
Miranda seemed certain to beat the prosecution this time around. He was represented by his now nationally prominent attorney John Flynn, and the prosecution would be without its most compelling piece of evidence, Miranda’s confession, and forced to rely instead upon Jane Doe’s contradictory statements.
But the state pressed on; the prosecutor this time would be the District Attorney himself, Robert Corbin. Just before trial, Corbin crossed paths with a confident John Flynn, who asked, “Why are you doing this? You haven’t got a case.” District Attorney Corbin knew that Flynn was probably right. “At least I’ll go down fighting,” he answered.
On the eve of trial, Corbin received an unexpected visitor, Twila Hoffman, Miranda’s former common-law spouse. She told the prosecutor that only a few days after Miranda’s arrest for the rape and kidnapping of Jane Doe, she had gone to visit him in the county jail. During their talk he said he had kidnapped and raped an 18-year-old girl and then asked Twila to pay a visit to Jane Doe’s family and convey his promise to marry the victim if she dropped the charges against him. Of course, he added, he’d go back to Twila later; he just needed to do this to stay out of jail.
Twila appeared on the stand, and her testimony, coupled with Jane Doe’s account of the attack, proved decisive. After only an hour and 23 minutes of deliberation, the four-man and eight-woman jury once again convicted Miranda of rape and kidnapping. Exactly one year after John Flynn’s victorious argument before the United States Supreme Court, Ernesto Miranda was sentenced to remain in the Arizona State Prison for 20 to 30 years.
Earl Warren retired as Chief Justice only three years after the Miranda decision, at the age of 79. Today he is remembered as one of the most influential figures in American legal history. Years after his retirement his precedents remain—for the most part—intact. Although they also remain controversial, it is difficult to discuss modern American law without an allusion to his name.
Ernesto Miranda was paroled in 1975. By the age of 34 he had become the man his juvenile rap sheet predicted. And on a cold desert evening in late January he drifted into La Amapola, a run-down bar in the Deuce section of Phoenix. He had some drinks while playing cards with two Mexicans who were in the country illegally. Soon the three men came to blows over a handful of change that sat atop the bar. One of the Mexicans drew a six-inch knife and told the other, “Finish it with this.” This was a battle that Miranda—without the assistance of John Flynn or Earl Warren—would fight on his own. He was stabbed once in the stomach and again in the chest. When the ambulance carrying him to Good Samaritan Hospital pulled into the emergency bay, he was dead.
Miranda’s killer fled down a back alley; police caught his accomplice. As the officers placed the man in the back of their cruiser, one of them pulled out a small card with words printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other. He began to read:
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.