Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MIRANDA VS ARIZONA: THE CRIME THAT CHANGED AMERICAN JUSTICE

'You Have the Right to Remain Silent'

Police officers Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young were met at the front door of Mirandas home by his common-law wife; a 29-year-old mother of a boy and a girl by another man, from whom she could not afford a divorce. Miranda was sleeping in the bedroom, having returned about an hour before from his 12-hour shift at the produce company.

The woman, Twila Hoffman, owner of the Packard in the driveway, woke Ernest who pleasantly, if hesitantly, greeted the detectives.

Cooley asked Miranda to accompany them downtown for questioning about the rape and robbery of Patty McGee. We didnt want to talk with him in front of his wife, Cooley said later.

The officers' concern for Mirandas domestic relations was not entirely altruistic. Criminal investigators rarely want to question a suspect in a place that is familiar and comfortable to the alleged offender. Interviewing a suspected felon is a battle of psychology and wits, and police, who almost invariably have more experience at interviewing than the accused, enjoy a tremendous advantage. The principal psychological factor contributing to a successful interrogation is privacy being alone with the person under investigation, wrote Fred Inbau and John E. Reid in their law enforcement text Criminal Interrogations and Confessions.

Inbau and Reid go on to say that in his own home, (the suspect) may be confident, indignant, or recalcitrant. He is more keenly aware of his rights and more reluctant to tell of his indiscretions within the walls of his home. Moreover, his family and other friends are nearby, their presence lending moral support.

In his own office, the investigator possesses all the advantages. The atmosphere suggests the invincibility of the forces of the law.

At this point, Miranda was unsure of his status with authorities. I didnt know whether I had a choice, he said later. I got in the car and asked them what it was about. They said they couldnt tell me anything. In fact, he was under arrest, and would have had to accompany the officers to the station whether he wanted to or not.

Miranda in the police line-up
Miranda in the police line-up

Almost immediately after arriving at the headquarters, Cooley and Young put Ernest Miranda into a line-up with three other Mexican-Americans from the city jail who approximately matched his physical appearance. Miranda was the only man who wore a shirt that allowed viewers to see his tattooed arms. They brought in Patty McGee, who looked at the group through a two-way mirror. The first man in the group similar to her attacker, she said, but she couldnt be sure. She asked to hear the man Ernest Miranda speak. All-in-all, it was an unsuccessful line-up from the police perspective.

How did I do? Miranda asked Cooley when he was being taken to a sterile interrogation room.

You flunked, Cooley lied.

The two officers and Miranda sat down in Interrogation Room 2, a small soundproofed room with three chairs two on one side and one (for the suspect) on the other. At no point was Miranda advised of his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself or his Sixth Amendment right to consult with a lawyer, but Cooley said later on the witness stand that he believed Miranda was familiar with his Constitutional rights.

He was an ex-convict and had been through the routine before, Cooley testified.

Mugshot of Miranda in 1963
Mugshot of Miranda in 1963

It didnt take long before the officers had extracted a confession from Ernest about the rape of Patty McGee. The officers denied from the outset that they had coerced the confession, and also disputed Mirandas claim that if he admitted to the rape, they would drop the robbery charge. Miranda, in his own testimony, said the officers threatened to throw the book at me. They would try to give me all the time they could. He also claimed that they promised to get him psychiatric counseling for his obvious sexual deviancy.

Cooley and Young brought Patty McGee into the doorway of the room so that she could hear Mirandas voice. Ernest, believing that Patty had already identified him from the line up, was asked if Patty was the girl he had raped.

Thats the girl, Miranda said.

After Patty left, the officers presented Miranda with a sheet of paper with a disclaimer at the top: the suspect, in making the written confession, acknowledged that the confession was voluntary and that he understood his rights even though those rights were not spelled out on the paper. Miranda wrote a confession that verified many of the same details Patty McGee had told police.

The entire process had taken a little under three hours, but by shortly after lunch, 10 days after the rape, Ernest Miranda had given a confession that would be subject to debate all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

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