Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Decision and Aftermath

Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion in Miranda v. Arizona himself in keeping with the courts tradition of assigning to the boss the most controversial matters. It took three full, distinct drafts before he was able to secure a majority position.

In the decision, Flynn, Frank and especially Ernest Miranda won hands-down.

The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination, Warren wrote, creating the now-famous Miranda Warning.

From this point on, the court decision required, law enforcement officials would have to ensure that detainees have been briefed on and understand their Constitutional rights. Police departments around the country started to inform suspects they have the right to remain silent, anything they say can and will be used against them, that they have the right to an attorney and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided free of charge.

The opinion was released on June 13, 1966, and Ernest Miranda learned that his conviction had been overturned while watching television. He thought, as did his family, that he would go free, and a celebration was planned. But the state of Arizona wasnt ready to let him get off that easy.

Once his conviction was overturned, he still had to serve the time for his robbery conviction, which was not affected by the Miranda decision, and shortly after the news reached Arizona, Maricopa prosecutors announced that they would seek to retry Miranda without the confession as evidence.

Ernest Miranda was his own worst enemy. He was suing his common-law wife for custody of their daughter, and from prison, had confessed his role in Patty McGees rape. He told his wife, Twila Hoffman, that she should tell McGee that Miranda would marry Patty if she agreed to drop the charges.

Hoffman, who wanted custody of their children herself, was angered by Mirandas request and told prosecutors about Mirandas prison confession. They used it during his retrial. There was a brief constitutional question about whether the testimony of a common law wife was admissible, and the issue went all the way back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this time declined to hear what Ernest Miranda had to say. He was convicted a second time of raping Patty McGee and one year to the day after arguments in Miranda v. Arizona were heard in Washington, D.C., a Maricopa Superior Court judge re-sentenced Ernest Miranda to 20 to 30 years in prison for kidnapping and rape.

The questions of the right to counsel and the protection against compelled confessions did not go away with the Miranda decision. Congress, angered by the liberal Warren Court, took action by enacting Section 3501 of the federal criminal law code, which in a sense annulled the Miranda decision and required a case-by-case examination of whether a confession was compelled or legitimately received. That law, passed in 1968, was rarely, if ever, used by the federal government to avoid giving a Miranda warning. Its main champion in the U.S. House was then-minority leader Rep. Gerald Ford of Michigan, later President of the United States.

Eventually, a court case that relied on section 3501, reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which was decidedly more conservative than the Warren Court of 1966. In U.S. v Dickerson, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Miranda was not a Constitutional guarantee, but could instead be altered by legislative action. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Dickerson v. United States (the petitioners name always precedes the respondent) and declined to overturn Miranda.

Relying on the fact that we have created several exceptions to Miranda's warnings requirement and that we have repeatedly referred to the Miranda warnings as prophylactic, and not themselves rights protected by the Constitution, the Court of Appeals concluded that the protections announced in Miranda are not constitutionally required, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for the Court. We disagree with the Court of Appeals' conclusion, although we concede that there is language in some of our opinions that supports the view taken by that court. But first and foremost of the factors on the other side--that Miranda is a constitutional decision--is that both Miranda and two of its companion cases applied the rule to proceedings in state courts Since that time, we have consistently applied Miranda's rule to prosecutions arising in state courts.


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