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Miranda v. Arizona

Significance

Few events have altered the course of American jurisprudence more than the 1963 rape conviction of Ernesto Miranda. The primary evidence against him was a confession he made while in police custody. How that confession was obtained exercised the conscience of a nation and prompted the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In the early hours of 3 March 1963, an 18-year-old Phoenix, Arizona, movie theater attendant was accosted by a stranger while on her way home from work. He dragged her into his car, drove out to the desert, and raped her. Afterwards he dropped the girl off near her home. The story she told police, often vague and contradictory, described her attacker as a bespectacled Mexican, late twenties, who was driving an early 1950s car, either a Ford or a Chevrolet.

By chance, one week later, the girl and her brother-in-law saw what she believed was the car, a 1953 Packard, license plate DFL-312. Records showed that this plate was actually registered to a late model Oldsmobile, but DFL-317 was a Packard, registered to a Twila N. Hoffman; and her boyfriend, Ernesto Miranda, 23, fit the attacker's description almost exactly.

Miranda had a long history of emotional instability and criminal behavior, including a one-year jail term for attempted rape. At police headquarters, he was placed in a lineup with three other Mexicans of similar height and build, though none wore glasses. The victim did not positively identify Miranda but said he bore the closest resemblance to her attacker. Detectives Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young then took Miranda into an interrogation room. He was told, inaccurately, that he had been identified, and asked him if he wanted to make a statement. Two hours later Miranda signed a written confession. There had been no blatant coercion or brutality, and included in the confession was a section stating that he understood his rights. When the detectives left interrogation room 2, they were pleased, not realizing the legal repercussions that would result from their efforts.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Miranda v. Arizona - Significance, Tainted Evidence, Conviction Overturned, Impact, Miranda Rights, Further Readings