June 13, 2016

50 years ago today: The Supreme Court announced its decision in Miranda v. Arizona.



That's how it looked on the front page of the NYT. Here's the Wikipedia article on Miranda:
Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former prosecutor, delivered the opinion of the Court, ruling that due to the coercive nature of the custodial interrogation by police (Warren cited several police training manuals which had not been provided in the arguments), no confession could be admissible under the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination clause and Sixth Amendment right to an attorney unless a suspect had been made aware of his rights and the suspect had then waived them:
The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.
In dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote that "nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so precipitously taken by the Court in the name of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities". Harlan closed his remarks by quoting former Justice Robert H. Jackson: "This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added."
But Miranda was a fine added story, and the temple held up pretty well.

(That other case on the NYT front page is important too: "Dissenters Fear Widening of Congressional Power." That was Katzenbach v. Morgan.)

29 comments:

Roughcoat said...

"7 Shot in Chicago Riot"??? What's that about?

YoungHegelian said...

I thought our Miranda rights meant that we had the right to wear hats with fruit.

Brando said...

I recall learning that the practical effect of Miranda was a rote recitation from the cops when they took you in custody, that didn't really do much to prevent suspects from talking and at the same time gave the cops cover in case the suspect later said they weren't aware they had rights. So whatever Warren's reasoning, a net win for the police.

sean said...

How do crime rates now compare with 1966? Wouldn't that be an important fact in evaluating whether Miranda was a good or bad addition to the temple of the law?

robother said...

Its not like crime rates exploded after 1966...oh, wait.

Unknown said...

Why is Miranda good or "fine?" What is achieved by it?

Hagar said...

It was not a brand new invention.
I think the Brits - at least in England - had required it for some time, and I remember reading whodunits with an FBI agent named Lemmy Caution, whose name was a take-off on a standard warning FBI agents were required to make along those lines.

Ann Althouse said...

""7 Shot in Chicago Riot"??? What's that about?"

Click on the link to the front page of the Times and you'll be able to read it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why is Miranda good or "fine?" What is achieved by it?"

Go to the link to Wikipedia and read about the Supreme Court's reconsideration of it in Dickerson in 2000.

It avoids complicated analysis of whether confessions are coerced, and many people do still talk to the police after they are given the warnings, and if they do, the fact that they received the warnings goes very far in making these statements to the police admissible. There are a lot of problems with coerced confessions, and if you think people don't confess unless they really did what they are confessing to, you should read more about the subject.

Basil said...

The "Temple" (odd term for a court of law) seems to have nose-dived in the respect and consideration of the people of this country.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/4732/supreme-court.aspx

However, if one sees the Court as an instrument of socialist "progress" then it's probably true that it is "strong." We are "progressing" on the way to Venezuela, Cuba and, someday, the Soviet Union where we can all be enslaved to work for the state.

The Supreme Court will find Communism in the 14th Amendment right next to homosexual marriage and tell us its been there all the time.

Sebastian said...

Some people judge con law by whether added stories are "fine." Others object when "nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so precipitously taken by the Court" I'm with the latter, but I realize we're a dying breed. The "temple" of con law has become a little storage shed, from which any Prog justice can pull any old or new junk, as she pleases.

Bruce Hayden said...

Don't know if it was good or bad, but I worked (decades later) for the law firm that represented Miranda. On the flip seed, so did Janet Napolitano.

Still, I like the result. Maybe because I have spent my entire adult, and most of my adolescent life subject to that decision. One thing is that we now pretty much have a fairly bright line when it comes to arrests. The reason a fairly bright line was needed was that it was routinely abused by the police. The way it mostly works is that if the police haven't yet arrested you, you can essentially walk out the door at any time. And when they do arrest you, you should get your Miranda warning immediately, because for the most part, anything you say after being factually arrested, but before being Miradaized should be suppressed in court - as well as all of the forbidden fruit that flow from that. So, a suspect asks whether he is free to leave, and the police say no (which legally translates usually to an arrest). He then confesses, including where the key evidence is, etc, before being Miradaized. Can the police use the weapon, body, cause of death from from the body, etc from this confession in court against him? Possibly, but unlikely. Which is why, in my mind, arrest has now become a fairly bright line event - the cops essentially are forced to announce the event with the Miranda warning. Before that, you can walk out (maybe not immediately, but fairly quickly, else you have an arrest). They could wait until somewhat later after the arrest for the Miranda warning, but most often don't, since the risk hearing an inadmissible confession that they would have a hard time unhearing.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

IIRC, most (how many? not sure) states and some local governments at that time required the police to inform suspects of their rights. FBI agents were required to do it as well. For example, JFK assassin (yeah, he did it) Lee Oswald was read his rights both by the Dallas police officials and the FBI agents.

So, this essentially nationalized the procedure. I don't see where the Warren Court found this right in the Constitution but, as a policy, it was a smart thing to do.

Bob Ellison said...

"storey" and "storeys"

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

Also at Wiki:
Ernesto Miranda was a rapist (convicted at a second trial).
Mr. Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight after serving his sentence.
The man who (allegedly) stabbed him was never convicted because he exercised his right to remain silent and therefore there was no evidence to convict him.
If only the real world worked like this.

DKWalser said...

The reason the Supreme Court should quit building onto the Constitutional Temple is that the Court acts as an unlicensed contractor when it does so. The stories they add may be good, but it is up to We the People to add them when and if we decide a story should be added.

Fernandinande said...

But Miranda was a fine added story, and the temple held up pretty well.

Added story = fairytale magically added to the Constitution.

Rather than that, I agree with T. Sowell that requiring the police to give civics lessons was an extra-constitutional and pragmatically poor decision:

"All of that changed [crime rate decreasing] quickly and dramatically for the worse after the Warren Court began imposing its own notions about crime in the 1960s. The most famous of these changes was the "Miranda warning" that police have to give suspects, stating that they have a right to remain silent and to have an attorney supplied free.

For more than a century and a half, not one of the great Supreme Court Justices -- not Holmes, not Brandeis, nor anybody else -- had ever discovered any such requirement in the Constitution of the United States. Nor had Congress passed any law requiring any such thing.

It was just another part of the liberal vision imposed from the bench by an unelected judiciary. Moreover, Miranda was just one in a string of Supreme Court decisions that made it easier for criminals to escape punishment."

EDH said...

There are a lot of problems with coerced confessions, and if you think people don't confess unless they really did what they are confessing to, you should read more about the subject.

Hell, Republican politicians do it all the time at the hands of the media, but nobody is rewriting the Constitution.

Fernandinande said...

Brando said...
...and at the same time gave the cops cover in case the suspect later said they weren't aware they had rights.


Why should an arrestee's ignorance work to his advantage?

Bruce Hayden said...
Which is why, in my mind, arrest has now become a fairly bright line event - the cops essentially are forced to announce the event with the Miranda warning.


What's the difference between that and the police saying "You're under arrest" and the arrestee already knowing that he can keep his mouth shut? Or, if he doesn't know, why not take advantage of his ignorance?

Why aren't people given civics lessons when they're charged but not arrested, e.g. getting a speeding ticket?

Brando said...

"Why should an arrestee's ignorance work to his advantage?"

Whether or not it should, it does. Though not so much in the "I didn't know what my rights are" way and more in the "I was coerced into a confession" way. Reciting the now well-known warning has helped cops eliminate the gray area without really giving the perps an advantage. No perp ever says "I was all about to tell all until they told me I had a right not to--thanks, Miranda!"

Fernandinande said...

Brando said...
"Why should an arrestee's ignorance work to his advantage?"
Whether or not it should, it does. Though not so much in the "I didn't know what my rights are" way and more in the "I was coerced into a confession" way.


Seems to me that the police telling a suspect "you can tell us whatever you want" would be less likely to involve coercion than saying "you don't have to tell us anything, and if you do tell us you might regret it".

Reciting the now well-known warning has helped cops eliminate the gray area without really giving the perps an advantage.

What gray area? Arrested? The guy's either under arrest or not: "You're under arrest" (and optionally "you can tell us anything") covers that. If the guy doesn't know what his legal rights are, that's his problem.

Brando said...

"Seems to me that the police telling a suspect "you can tell us whatever you want" would be less likely to involve coercion than saying "you don't have to tell us anything, and if you do tell us you might regret it"."

Yep, that's how it works--they give the warnings, and then continue to indicate that things might go better for the perp if he cooperates, and his lawyer could take a while getting there and the deal will be off the table when he does.

And of course "under arrest" can have gray areas--you're brought in for questioning, and it's not clear if you're free to leave until you come out and ask it. When did the arrest start? For the police, everything given up to them after the warning is fair game (barring some other factor). Without the warning, the defendant could introduce evidence suggesting that his "arrest" really started earlier, and things he told the cops shouldn't be admissible.

Richard Dolan said...

The decision has been lauded (sort of) in a poem you might enjoy:


Poem In Which Words Have Been Left Out
Charles Jensen

—The “Miranda Rights," established 1966

You have the right to remain
anything you can and will be.

An attorney you cannot afford
will be provided to you.

You have silent will.
You can be against law.
You cannot afford one.

You remain silent. Anything you say
will be provided to you.

The right can and will be
against you. The right provided you.

Have anything you say be
right. Anything you say can be right.

Say you have the right attorney.
The right remain silent.

Be held. Court the one. Be provided.
You cannot be you.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

In the real world. Any arrestee who babbles about "my rights" is eager to talk and will not shut-up. Confession really must be good for the soul because immediately after confessing, once back in the cage perps are known to take a nice long snooze. Most arrestees are drunk or drugged and their knowledge of law comes from watching tv. They are often convinced you are not allowed to even ask them their name without reading Miranda - which is not true. Hard core life long criminals simply stare - they will not even give you a grunt in response. They could care less about Miranda - they are following the law of the street.

Ambrose said...

I remember a study - can't find, you'll have to trust my memory - that indicated that the Miranda requirements helped the cops. Particularly with people not used to dealing with the police, the reading of the rights was a bright line moment. The suspect realized "Oh no, they are reading me my rights. This is serious, Time to stop BS'ing here and deal with this seriously."

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the poem. Enjoyed the approach quite a lot. I like the cutting up and reassembling.

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

For those of you who haven't heard comedian Ron White's description of the time he was arrested for public intoxication:
"I had the right to remain silent.
But not the ability."

Joe said...

The problem I have with the "Miranda Right" is that it creates a false distinction and a false promise, which is abused by the police. In truth, the Miranda Warning should be given every time a police officer opens his or her mouth, since that reflects the true right. (In other words, the right to remain silent, the right to counsel, etc. don't suddenly pop into being when the warning is recited. They exist always.)

One interesting effect is how much the Miranda Warning in concept has permeated outside the US due to exported cop shows.

JCCamp said...

The general idea of interrogations - pre Miranda - was to use the reticence of people to focus suspicion upon themselves by refusing to talk to cops, So, "If you're innocent, what do you have to hide?" Cops used this to lock bad guys into lies, then used the lies to eventually break down the suspect completely and get that confession. So, subtle and not so subtle tricks were employed to keep suspects talking by convincing them they only way do deflect suspicion was to talk their way out. Post Miranda, this tactic generally failed of course, since the cops started off by telling a suspect "Shut up and get a lawyer."
My issue with Miranda (and others, like Roe) is that the court is inventing remedies that are properly the realm of elected legislatures. I think it's likely that the writers of the bill of rights would be appalled at the notion of Miranda warnings.
As for this notion that citizens have some right to remain silent under any circumstance, that is just incorrect. The right to remain silent is keyed to custodial interrogations. So, for instance, in some circumstances, refusing to identify yourself or the reason for your actions or presence, can be grounds for arrest. It's quite fact dependent. And in the case of pre-arrest inquiries, no warnings are required.