12 HISTORIC SUPREME COURT DECISIONS A C-SPAN ORIGINAL TV SERIES
Summary
Case Decided:
June 13, 1966

Miranda v. Arizona (1966) gave rise to the “Miranda warning” now issued upon arrest after the Court ruled 5-4 that suspects must be informed of their rights before they are questioned. These rights include the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney.

In 1963, Phoenix police arrested Ernesto Miranda as a suspect in a recent kidnapping and rape case. The victim identified Miranda in a lineup, and after being interrogated by officers for two hours, he signed a written confession admitting his guilt. The form Miranda signed included a general acknowledgement that he had “knowledge of my legal rights,” but Miranda’s attorney argued at trial and before the Supreme Court that no one told Miranda what those rights were. In his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren directed police departments across the country to inform suspects of their right to an attorney and against self-incrimination before questioning them. The ruling forever changed law enforcement practices and made the words “you have a right to remain silent…” widespread on television and throughout American life.

Key Players
Ernesto Miranda

Ernesto Miranda was a young man who was arrested for kidnapping and rape in Phoenix, Arizona. The Court ruled that his confession could not be used against him, but Miranda was convicted based on other evidence and served fourteen years in jail. After his release, Miranda was killed in a bar fight. Ironically, the suspect in his murder was “mirandized.”

Chief Justice Earl Warren

Earl Warren (March 19, 1891 – July 9, 1974) was a California lawyer, prosecutor and governor who became chief justice of the Supreme Court (1953 – 1969). He wrote the majority opinion in Miranda that expanded protections for suspects. Justice Warren’s years as a county district attorney and state attorney general gave him insight into the relationship between law enforcement and criminal defendants.

Opinions
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