From Miranda to Gideon: Our Rights as Criminals

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).


In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona on the accusation of rape and murder of an eighteen-year-old girl. The arresting police had substantial evidence to make the arrest and during his interrogation admitted to committing the actions. After he orally confessed, Miranda signed a written statement that, not only provided that he had raped and murdered the girl, but also that he was making the admission voluntarily to the interrogating officers. During the trial, this admission was used as evidence against Miranda. Miranda’s attorney objected to the evidence saying that it could not be used because Miranda made the admission without a lawyer present. The court overruled his objection and allowed the admission statement as evidence in the trial in which Miranda was convicted and sentenced to twenty to thirty years.

Ernesto Miranda’s lawyer appealed the conviction allowing the evidence based on Miranda’s constitutional rights according to the Fifth Amendment security against self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment requires that law enforcement officials advise a suspect in custody of their rights to remain silent and have an attorney present. Miranda said that since he was not aware of his rights and that there was not a lawyer present when he made the confession it could not be allowed as evidence based on the amendment against self-incrimination. The appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court and the justices decided by a ruling of 5-4 in favor of Miranda’s appeal that Miranda’s Fifth Amendment rights were violated by the use of his confession as evidence. The case went to retrial but Miranda was convicted again because through the use of witnesses and other evidence.

I think the justices misinterpreted the constitution with this ruling because when it was originally written, I think the amendment attempted to give citizens a way to avoid being bullied by law enforcement to admit to crimes they did not commit. It allowed a third party to ensure that due process was fair for each citizen. At the time, police interrogation methods were rather controversial and this led the justices to believe that Miranda was forced to admit to his crimes. I understand their intent to protect Ernesto Miranda’s right to remain silent and have a lawyer to help him in his case, but I think a confession is still evidence no matter where or how it is achieved. I think if Miranda had not actually committed the crime then the law would have been on his side but in a case where rape and murder were committed, I think the confession should always be allowed. My reasoning is that if he confessed to doing it but they couldn’t use it as evidence, and then he somehow beats the charge that is when justice has not been served. Once Miranda committed the atrocities, he forfeited his own constitutional rights and therefore should not be allowed to find loopholes in the system to find his freedom. The justices were right in protecting the Fifth Amendment right towards innocent people but in Miranda’s case, I think they misinterpreted the amendment and the intent to which it was written.

This reminded me of the case with Gideon and improper representation. Miranda had not been told of his rights at all so he had no representation at the time of his accusation.  Gideon knew his rights but still did not have the representation he wanted in order to free himself.  This goes to show that although these things have to be reinterpreted every so often, we are still learning as a society how to uphold the legal system.

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3 Responses to From Miranda to Gideon: Our Rights as Criminals

  1. bmfdub says:

    Though your post was clear, I just cannot follow the notion that all confessions should be considered evidence. There are countless ways to convince someone to lie, even if it is not in their best interest. Torture, coercion, attacking relatives and friends, bribery, the list goes on.

    Additionally, due to the significant number of police interactions that result in an arrest, it is always in the best interests of the police to secure a conviction in the most efficient manner. Given that, it is likely that shortcuts are inevitably taken and mistakes are made. Whenever someone’s life, liberty, or property are at stake, it should always be ensured that the pursuit of justice does not create more victims.

  2. seancity971 says:

    I have always followed the Miranda v. Arizona case very closely since it happened in my hometown and my dad is a police officer here. The case itself was both good and bad but I do think it is important that it is clear that Miranda was still convicted and found guilty. This case does not make it any easier for criminals to get off all it did was fix a big in our policing process. I personally feel proud that such a landmark case happened in my backdoor in AZ.

  3. mernasyawish says:

    Great post, Patrick! I agree with you, when a confession is made, it should be used as evidence simply for the fact that it is coming directly from the accused person. Whether or not Miranda was forced to admit his crimes, the bottom line is that he DID in fact admit to committing those crimes, that was his choice, forced or not, he chose to disclose that information and face the consequences. Moreover, this was not a case of a small crime, this dealt with rape and murder, having a confession to these actions should top off any other prior evidence prosecutors may have had on Miranda. I liked how you mentioned that Miranda should not be allowed to find loopholes in the system in hopes of finding his own freedom — very good point!

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