Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MIRANDA VS ARIZONA: THE CRIME THAT CHANGED AMERICAN JUSTICE

A Brief Life of Crime

When Ernest Miranda went with police to their headquarters, it wasnt the first time he had been in police custody. He had been in trouble from the time he was in grade school in Mesa, Arizona, shortly after his mother died and his father remarried. Ernest and his father didnt get along very well, and the boy kept his distance from his brothers and step-mother, as well. He was a chronic truant, and had his first criminal conviction when he was in 8th grade. The following year, Miranda was arrested and convicted of burglary, and sentenced to a year in reform school.

In 1956, about a month after he was released from the Arizona State Industrial School for Boys, Ernest was walking home one night when he happened to glimpse a nude woman lying on a bed in her home. To Miranda, this was an invitation to enter the home, which he did through the unlocked front door. He got on the bed with the woman, attempted but failed at intercourse, and remained in bed with her until her husband came home and called police. Miranda was returned to reform school for an additional year.

Ernest felt that a change of scenery would do him some good, so after he was released from the reformatory, he headed west to Los Angeles. A geographic cure didnt work, and within months he had been arrested on suspicion of armed robbery he was not convicted as well as some minor sex offenses including being caught in the act of being a peeping Tom. After his arrest and two-and-a-half month detention on the armed robbery charges, authorities felt that the people of California would be better off without Ernest Miranda and deported the 18-year-old back to Arizona.

With an already lengthy criminal record, few job skills and no family support, Miranda did the only legitimate thing he could do in the face of such hardship he joined the Army. Unfortunately, a second geographic cure, with the help of Uncle Sam, didnt change Ernest Miranda. His service record lists AWOL and voyeurism charges and Miranda 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.

Mugshot of Ernest Miranda in 1960
Mugshot of Ernest Miranda in 1960

He drifted around the south for a few months, spending time in jail in Texas for vagrancy, 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.

Through no work on his part, Ernest kept a low profile for the next couple of years, moving from menial job to menial job before landing a position as a laborer on the night loading dock for the Phoenix produce company. He was still working at the produce firm, where his foreman told authorities he was one of the best workers there, when police showed up to question him about Patty McGees rape.

 

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