Who was Ernesto Arturo Miranda? Inside Phoenix case that led to Miranda Rights

Ernesto Arturo Miranda is at the center of the Miranda Rights, which is the right to remain silent


                            Who was Ernesto Arturo Miranda? Inside Phoenix case that led to Miranda Rights
Three years after his sentencing, on June 13, 1966, the United States Supreme Court reversed Miranda’s conviction citing the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?" 

Most people know their Miranda Rights from movies and television. Sometimes we get to hear the whole of it, other times, we only hear the first two lines. Once these rights are read, the suspect has to give a clear indication that they understand what is being said to them. Especially if English is not the first language they speak. So, what is the history behind Miranda Rights? Where did they emerge from, and what lies at the foundation of it?

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Ernesto Arturo Miranda is at the center of Miranda Rights. He was born in Mesa, Arizona, on March 9, 1941. Before he was arrested for kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old woman, a year after his eighth grade, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced to a year in a reform school -- Arizona State Industrial School for Boys (ASISB). 

Who was Ernesto Arturo Miranda?

Just a month after leaving in 1956, he was returned back to the reform school. When he left the school for a second time, he moved to Los Angeles, California. But his run-ins with the law were only just beginning. Within months, he was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery and some sex offenses. Miranda, who was just a teenager by then, was, however, not convicted of these crimes. 

After he spent two and a half years in custody, the then 18-year-old Miranda was extradited back to Arizona. After this was few years of traveling around, trying to stay out of prison, and then ending up back inside. From jail time in Texas and Nashville, Tennessee, to being sentenced in Chillicothe, Ohio, and in Lompoc, California, Miranda was often in and out of jail. 

He eventually became a laborer on the night loading dock for the Phoenix produce company. Then came 1963 - the precursor to a landmark event in not only Miranda's life but also in the history of law and order in the country. 

Landmark judgment

On March 13, 1963, Miranda's truck was spotted and license plates recognized by the brother of an 18-year-old kidnapping and rape victim, Lois Ann Jameson, who had reportedly given the brother a description of her attacker. 

Armed with his description of the car and a partial license plate number, Phoenix police officers Carroll Cooley and Wilfred Young confronted Miranda. At the time, Miranda cooperated - he voluntarily accompanied them to the station house and participated in a lineup. And that is where he was positively identified. It is worth pointing out that at the time, Miranda was just a person of interest, and not formally in custody. Custody is a formal arrest, while interrogation means explicit questions. 

Eventually, Miranda confessed to kidnapping and assaulting the woman, and his confession was used at his trial. The jury convicted him and the judge sentenced him to 20 to 30 years in prison.

But three years later, on June 13, 1966, the United States Supreme Court reversed Miranda’s conviction and issued its ruling, setting aside a conviction because the accused was not advised of his rights. The Supreme Court held that the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution guaranteed that "no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself".

The court held that when a person is taken into custody, he was deprived of his freedom by the authorities and is subjected to questioning, and so the police must warn him before any interrogation. The guidelines are that he has the right to remain silent; that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law; that he has the right to the presence of an attorney; if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires. It ordered that the State of Arizona give him a new trial.

The ruling was met with some criticism as many thought it was one that could be taken disadvantage of by criminals. However, legal experts offer a variety of explanations. According to reports, experts say that people want to confess because they either can't bear the guilt, while others just can’t help themselves.

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