The Warren Court left an unprecedented legacy of judicial activism in the area of civil rights law as well as in the area of civil liberties—specifically, the rights of the accused as addressed in Amendments 4 through 8. In the period from 1961 to 1969, the Warren Court examined almost every aspect of the criminal justice system in the United States, using the 14th Amendment to extend constitutional protections to all courts in every State. This process became known as the “nationalization” of the Bill of Rights. During those years, cases concerning the right to legal counsel, confessions, searches, and the treatment of juvenile criminals all appeared on the Court's docket.
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Constitutional guarantees of due process for the accused had to be upheld.
The Court heard a number of similar cases at the same time that it heard Miranda. The Miranda decision distilled the several “fundamental fairness” standards into one succinct statement of the due process rights of the accused.
A kidnapping and sexual assault occurred in Phoenix, Arizona, in March 1963. On March 13 Ernesto Miranda, 23, was arrested in his home, taken to the police station, identified by the victim, and taken into an interrogation room. Miranda was not told of his rights to counsel prior to questioning. Two hours later, investigators emerged from the room with a written confession signed by Miranda. It included a typed disclaimer, also signed by Miranda, stating that he had “full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me,” and that he had knowingly waived those rights.
Two weeks later at a preliminary hearing, Miranda again was denied counsel. At his trial he did have a lawyer, whose objections to the use of Miranda's signed confession as evidence were overruled. Miranda was convicted of kidnapping and rape, and received a 20-year sentence.
Was a confession an admissible document in a court of law if it was obtained without warnings against self-incrimination and without legal counsel—rights guaranteed to all persons by the 5th and 6th amendments? With whom does the burden of proof rest for determining whether a defendant has legally “waived” his or her rights? What is the standard for judging whether “voluntary confessions” should be deemed admissible? When should an attorney be appointed for a person if he or she cannot afford one?
The police clearly violated Miranda's 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and his 6th Amendment right to legal counsel. Arizona ignored both the Escobedo rule and the Gideon rule in prosecuting Miranda. His confession was illegally obtained and should be thrown out. His conviction was faulty, and he deserved a new trial.
Ernesto Miranda was no stranger to police procedures. He negotiated with police officers with intelligence and understanding. He signed the confession willingly. The prosecution was proper, his conviction was based on Arizona law, and his imprisonment was just. The Supreme Court should uphold his conviction and should not further cripple the work of police.
By a 5-4 margin, the Court voted to overturn Miranda's conviction. Chief Justice Warren declared that the burden is upon the State to demonstrate that “procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination” are followed. The current practice of 'incommunicado' interrogation is that the individual may not be compelled to incriminate himself.
Warren then summarized the case, measuring it against the “fundamental fairness” standards the Court had established. “It is clear,” he wrote, “that Miranda was not in any way apprised of his right to consult with an attorney and to...