50-year-old Miranda case still has huge impact today

In 2016, Miranda rights are ubiquitous, thanks in no small part to cop shows and crime movies that have popularized the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.”

But when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case 50 years ago Tuesday, the Miranda v. Arizona case was mostly unknown outside of legal circles.

“If Miranda is accepted today by the populace, it is the result of cultural influence,” Erik Luna, Foundation Professor of Law at ASU, said.

The tale began early in 1963 when Ernesto Miranda, then a Mesa resident, kidnapped and raped an 18-year-old woman in central Phoenix.

Shortly after Phoenix Police officers brought Miranda in for questioning, they placed him in a lineup with three other men. Although his victim actually couldn’t identify him, police told him that she did pick him out of the lineup.

Miranda, unaware of his rights, soon confessed to the crime.

Two renowned Phoenix lawyers took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in a 5-4 decision on June 13, 1966 that people suspected of committing crimes must be informed of their rights in order for any of their statements to be admissible in trial.

Fifty years later, it remains one of the high court’s most controversial decisions.

“(It was a) watershed decision in criminal procedure,” Luna said. “It is probably one of the best-known cases in Supreme Court history.”

Gary Stuart, author of Miranda: The Story of America’s Right to Remain Silent, said Miranda’s impact is felt in police encounters every day.

“Are there any other constitutional amendments that you can think of where there’s a discussion about it a thousand times every day in hundreds of cities all across America?” Stuart said. “The answer to that is no, there is not. That is its legacy.”