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Ernesto's legacy

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


“You have the right to remain silent.” I’m guessing you’ve heard that line before a few times on TV and in the movies.

Meet Ernesto, a 23-year-old eighth grade dropout, who is arrested at his home. Detectives take him to the police station and question him about the abduction and rape of an 18-year-old woman. The victim identifies Ernesto as the person responsible for the horrific crimes. Ernesto confesses after two hours of interrogation by the detectives.

At his trial, Ernesto’s confession is admitted as evidence over the objection from his lawyer. The jury convicts Ernesto of kidnapping and rape. The judge sentences him to 20 to 30 years in prison.

Ernesto appeals to his state’s supreme court on the basis that his confession was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights to have a lawyer and against self-incrimination. The appellate court disagrees with Ernesto and affirms his convictions.

Ernesto appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States agrees with Ernesto and reverses his convictions. The Court finds that the detectives never informed Ernesto about his right to remain silent and his right to have an attorney present before or during a custodial interrogation.

Ernesto gets another shot at a trial. Even though the prosecutor can’t use the confession against Ernesto, the jury still convicts him. The judge gives him another lengthy prison sentence.

It’s been fifty years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Miranda v. Arizona. It might be the most well-known and frequently mentioned case within popular culture. Chief Justice Warren wrote within the majority’s opinion:

Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.

Back to Ernesto. He gets out of prison after several years. While at an Arizona tavern one night, a fight breaks out and Ernesto is stabbed to death. In a twist of irony, the suspect is taken to the police station where the officers read him his Miranda rights. The suspect requests an attorney and the questioning stops. No person is ever charged with Ernesto Miranda’s murder.


Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you

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