The Mind-Blowing Origin Story of 'Miranda Rights'
On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested for allegedly stealing $8 from an Arizona bank employee. Proving that "cool under pressure" is not always a trait that's present in career criminals, the questioning escalated to such a degree that, by the time it was done, Miranda had confessed to the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old woman a week earlier. How you don't just confess to stealing the money and keep a lid on the rest is beyond us, but hey, a confession is a confession! A trial a short time later sent Miranda and his unsavory ways to prison with a 20-year sentence.
His mustache was tried as a minor and received four years probation.
Score one for justice, right? Wrong. Remember, this was 1963: Law & Order was another 25 years or so from airing, police still had to figure things out as they went. So when Miranda wrote "With full knowledge of my legal rights" on the top of his confession, authorities assumed that they didn't have to actually read him his rights, because what harm could entering into a gentleman's agreement with an admitted rapist lead to?
Next, in what amounts to the courtroom version of holding your crossed fingers behind your back while you tell a lie, Miranda claimed that, despite what he may have written in his confession, he in fact did not understand what his rights were while in custody. Because no one bothered to tell him, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled in his favor and dismissed his confession as inadmissible in court. Without that, prosecutors had no case. Ernesto Miranda, confessed kidnapper and rapist, was a free man.
"You behave yourself now!"
For a while, anyway -- Miranda was tried again and wound up serving 11 years.
It would be irony enough that "Miranda rights," which are intended to protect us from unlawful imprisonment, were put in place to benefit a man who clearly deserved all of the imprisonment (unlawful or otherwise) that came his way. But that would also be a pretty shitty ending to this tale. Unfortunately for Ernesto Miranda, he was about to learn that irony is a dish best served with a crispy side order of karma.
Failing to learn any lessons from the earlier episode, Miranda went straight back to living like a criminal, supplementing his crime income by selling autographed Miranda rights cards for $1.50 each. That cocky approach to having your life saved by a technicality didn't carry Miranda too far, though.
During a $2 card game at La Amapola Bar in Phoenix, a knife fight broke out. While bringing a knife to a gunfight is never advised, it's generally accepted practice that you should at least have one during a knife fight. Ernesto Miranda did not. During a melee involving two men, he was fatally stabbed. The man who handed Ernesto Miranda's killer the murder weapon was arrested, but, thanks to Miranda's legal maneuvering a decade earlier, he knew full well that he was under no obligation to speak to authorities about anything. He kept his mouth shut long enough for the man who inflicted the fatal blows to escape to Mexico, never to be seen again.
The man who killed Ernesto Miranda beat the system because his accomplice invoked his Miranda rights.
Farewell, sweet prince. May flights of angels rape thee to thy rest.
The message here? Don't rape people. If you do, we get to laugh at the hilarious way you die. That's also how justice works.
Correction: an earlier version of this article did not mention Miranda's second trial. We do not regret the error, or anything else in life.