Who’s Miranda?

miranda

There’s much discussion and speculation about the likelihood and legality of suspected Boston bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev being questioned without being read his “Miranda warning”, since investigators want to invoke a rare public safety exemption. We all know, from watching movies and Law & Order reruns, that on arrest an individual is read his or her Miranda rights: to remain silent, to consult with an attorney, and to have an attorney present during questioning. Where does the name Miranda come from?

In 1963, a laborer from Arizona, Ernesto Arturo Miranda, was convicted of kidnap, rape, and armed robbery, based on a confession he made under police interrogation. Miranda appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that his fifth amendment rights had been violated because he was not told of his right to remain silent or to consult with a lawyer before his questioning. The Supreme Court set aside Miranda’s conviction in a landmark ruling of 1966, and so the Miranda rights (or Miranda warning) were conceived and enshrined in U.S. law. (Miranda was later retried and convicted for the original crime.)

There is no exact wording for the Miranda warning; however, the Supreme Court’s ruling included guidelines that must be followed when arresting an individual and informing him or her of their rights:

“The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that they have the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that they have the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if they are indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent them.

Almost inevitably, a verb has evolved in American English to capture the process described above. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, mirandize is a transitive verb meaning “to inform (a person who has been arrested) of their legal rights, in accordance with the Miranda decision.”

 

 

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