Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

MIRANDA VS ARIZONA: THE CRIME THAT CHANGED AMERICAN JUSTICE

Miranda's State Appeal

Moore believed that McFate had erred when he allowed the confession to be entered, and he felt that without it Miranda would have beaten the charge. He believed, and other observers concurred, that he had shown reasonable doubt as to the elements of the crime at the time, Arizona required rape victims to resist to the utmost and McGee had not been able to testify that she had done so.

Alvin Moore immediately appealed the case to the Arizona Supreme Court. Was the statement made voluntarily? he asked in his brief. and was appellant (a Mexican boy of limited education) afforded all the safeguards to his rights provided by the Constitution of the United States and the laws and the rules of the courts?

By the time the Arizona high court got around to considering Mirandas appeal in 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court under the liberal Earl Warren had weighed-in on the side of defendants rights. They had taken a half step toward Moores trial claim that a suspect was entitled to have a lawyer when questioned by police in the case of Escobedo v. Illinois (the case was argued on behalf of Illinois by future governor James R. Thompson). In the Escobedo case, the court ruled when police are no longer conducting a general inquiry into an unsolved crime but are focusing on a particular suspect in custody, refusing to allow that suspect to consult with an attorney and failing to warn the suspect of his right to remain silent is denial of the assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment.

It took the Arizona Supreme Court 18 months to get around to Mirandas case, but found that the U.S. Supreme Courts immensely unpopular Escobedo decision which freed a confessed murderer did not apply to Miranda. The Arizona court upheld his rape and kidnapping convictions.

The Arizona justices strictly interpreted the Escobedo decisions caveats:

  1. An investigation focusing on a particular suspect;
  2. the suspect is in custody;
  3. the suspect has requested and been denied an opportunity to consult with a lawyer;
  4. the suspect has not been effectively warned about his right to remain silent; and 
  5. an incriminating statement must have been given by the suspect. 

The author of the Arizona courts decision, former U.S. Senator and Arizona governor Ernest W. McFarland, centered his decision on the fact that Miranda had not requested a lawyer at the time of his detention and therefore was not entitled to the protections offered by Escobedo.  They did not believe that Mirandas confession was involuntary, that the lower court did not err in allowing it and that McFate had correctly allowed it into evidence.

Police acted reasonably in assuming that a man with Mirandas criminal record would understand his due process rights, the court ruled. McFarland did go on to say that the right to counsel was one of the most important rights an accused person had, and that the necessity of protecting the general population from lawbreakers must not come at the expense of individual rights, no matter how heinous the crime.

Across the country, courts were struggling to interpret the Supreme Courts Escobedo decision. By the time state cases had exhausted their state appeals and landed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, differing interpretations of Escobedo abounded. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in a manner similar to the Arizona Supreme Court, tailoring decisions narrowly to fit the U.S. Supreme Courts five-point test, while the Second Circuit interpreted the decision more broadly, finding in favor of defendants. Not only were there differing decisions on the federal level, but there was disagreement between the states and the federal courts on just what Escobedo meant. It was clear that the high court would have to revisit Escobedo and clarify the situation.

 

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