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Strange beginnings for the Miranda Rights

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In 1963 someone named Ernesto Miranda was convicted of kidnapping and rape, prosecutors only using his confession as evidence and presenting no other information to the court. Miranda had confessed to his crimes upon arrest and it was this information that proved to be the only bit of evidence needed to convict him. The problem was that upon review, the man realised that he hadn’t actually been required to say anything at all upon arrest; in fact that he might have stayed silent and remained free and out of jail. His lawyer explained that his legal rights were different than he had expected and once Miranda realised this, he was determined to bring the misunderstanding to light. He knew that if he put pressure on the right people, with the help of his lawyer he could perhaps change the outcome of his conviction.

It seemed the problem with Miranda’s arrest was that he believed upon arrest he was required to plead innocent or guilty – he confessed that he was guilty and thought the legal process was effectively over. He didn’t understand that in the United States people do not have to make any kind of plea until actually presented with the question in court, and this mistake would change the way American cops would conduct their arrests entirely in the following years. Miranda felt that he should lobby to have these rights made known to any person being arrested so that they would know exactly what was expected of them and what they need not do. This was by no means a charitable act on his part; Miranda was simply looking to have his own conviction overturned.

Subsequent to his first conviction, Miranda fought to have the confession ruled out because of his initial ignorance to the fact that he didn’t need to incriminate himself. The conviction was actually thrown out of court and he found himself facing another trial without the confession as evidence. Fortunately the prosecutors brought in enough other evidence to reconvict him and in the end Miranda served eleven years in jail for his crimes. Because of the fuss he made over his own willingness to confess, police nationwide are all required to state that an individual need not say anything to incriminate themselves as they are being arrested. This is known as being read your Miranda Rights.

Ironically, when Ernesto Miranda was killed years later in a knife fight, his killer was read his Miranda Rights before being brought into jail. Since the 1960’s the issue of Miranda Rights has been revisited time and again since many people feel it is unnecessary to tell people they don’t have to say anything that will hurt their chances in court; in fact it seems common sense to most and a waste of time to many police officers. Nevertheless, in 2000 the Supreme Court maintained that reading of the Miranda Rights during arrest was necessary and would lead to fewer overturned court cases due to the professed ignorance of a suspect.

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