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Ernesto Miranda Trials: 1963 & 1967

Tainted Evidence

As an indigent, Miranda was granted a court-appointed defender, Alvin Moore. Moore studied the evidence. The state had an apparently unassailable case, buttressed by Miranda's confession. And yet there was something about that confession that Moore found troubling. Convinced it had been obtained improperly, he intended to move for its inadmissibility.

Only four witnesses appeared for the prosecution: the victim, her sister, and Detectives Cooley and Young. After their testimony, Deputy County Attorney Laurence Turoff told the jury that the victim "did not enter into this act of intercourse with him [Miranda] willfully, but in fact she was forced to, by his own force and violence, directed against her."

Moore responded by highlighting inconsistencies in the victim's story. She claimed to have been a virgin prior to the attack, an assertion discounted by medical examiners, and could not remember the exact chronology of the night's events. Neither did she exhibit any bruising or abrasions after the attack; reason enough for Moore to thunder to the jury, "You have in this case a sorrowful case, but you don't have the facts to require that you send a man to prison for rape of a woman who should have resisted and resisted and resisted, until her resistance was at least overcome by the force and violence of the defendant" (an essential requirement under Arizona law at that time; anything less was regarded as compliance.)

But it wasn't until cross-examination of Carroll Cooley that Moore struck:

Question: Officer Cooley, in the taking of this statement, what did you say to the defendant to get him to make this statement?

Answer: I asked the defendant if he would … write the same story that he just told me, and he said that he would.

Question: Did you warn him of his rights?

Answer: Yes, sir, at the heading of the statement is a paragraph typed out, and I read this paragraph to him out loud.

Question: I don't see in the statement that it says where he is entitled to the advice of an attorney before he made it.

Answer: No, sir.

Question: Is it not your practice to advise people you arrest that they are entitled to the services of an attorney before they make a statement?

Answer: No, sir.

This admission prompted Moore to object to the confession as evidence, but he was overruled by Judge Yale McFate, who favored the jury with a well-balanced and eminently fair account of the law as it stood at the time. In 1963, the constitutional right to silence was not thought to extend to the jailhouse.

Consequently, on June 27, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was convicted and sentenced to two concurrent terms of 20-30 years imprisonment.

But Alvin Moore's arguments about the confession had touched off a legal firestorm. Miranda's conviction was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 13, 1966, Chief Justice Earl Warren, speaking for a 5-4 majority, for the first time established unequivocal guidelines about what is and what is not permissible in the interrogation room:

Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed …

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Ernesto Miranda Trials: 1963 1967 - Tainted Evidence, Conviction Overturned