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Marking 50 years since the arrest of Ernesto Miranda

Today marks 50 years since the arrest of Ernesto Miranda, the Mesa man whose name became synonymous with the rights of criminal suspects.

From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Steve Goldstein reports on the lasting impact of the Supreme Court case that bears Miranda’s name.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: On March thirteenth of nineteen sixty-three, Ernesto Miranda was arrested after a rape in Mesa. He was taken in by Carroll Cooley, who’d become a Phoenix police detective one year earlier. Cooley says there was nothing out of the ordinary about the process…

CARROLL COOLEY: We came into the living room and said, ‘would you mind coming downtown with us?’ We took him to the department. We set him down in the interview room. We called it the interrogation room back then.

GOLDSTEIN: Miranda faced a lineup. Two of the alleged victims picked him out but said they weren’t absolutely certain. After Cooley told Miranda the lineup hadn’t gone well, Miranda told him what he’d done. Miranda’s confession sent him to prison, where he was sentenced to serve twenty years. But the American Civil Liberties Union got involved. The organization believed that poor and uneducated suspects weren’t being told about their Constitutional rights. At that point, two legendary attorneys—John Flynn and John Frank—from the Phoenix firm of Lewis and Roca—took on Miranda’s defense. The Supreme Court accepted the case and heard Miranda v. Arizona in February of 1966. John Flynn argued on Miranda’s behalf…

JOHN FLYNN: I believe the record indicates that at no time during the interrogation—prior to his confession—was he advised either of his right to remain silent, of his right to counsel or of his right to consult with counsel.

GOLDSTEIN: Four months later on a five to four decision, the high court overturned Miranda’s rape conviction—leading to his name’s connection with the rights of suspects. Less than a year after he was released from prison for the last time, Miranda was stabbed to death in downtown phoenix in 1976.  He was thirty-five. The Miranda Rights have been considered by the Supreme Court several times since 2000 but have survived. Many experts say it has made law enforcement better, even as it has protected suspects’ rights. And any American who has ever watched a television crime drama could probably tell you they start with ‘you have the right to remain silent.’