The Question:

Who was Miranda, and where did her rights come from?

The Answer:

Miranda's full name was Ernesto Miranda. He was arrested in 1963 after a kidnapping and sexual assault in Phoenix, Arizona. After two hours of interrogation without access to a lawyer, he signed a written confession to the crimes. When the case went to trial, the court allowed the confession into evidence, even though Miranda had not been told of his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present. In a 5-4 decision on Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that the confession could not be used in court, as it was obtained without due process.

The standard list of rights now read to a person upon being arrested are known as the Miranda rights, as they are taken from, and required by, this decision. The decision states:

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him.

This did not end up helping Miranda himself. On being tried again, this time without the confession being used in court, he was again found guilty, and served eleven years in prison. He was later stabbed to death in a bar fight. The suspected killer was read his Miranda rights, opted to remain silent, and fled to Mexico. The murder case was closed.

You might like our list of Milestone Cases in Supreme Court History.

—The Fact Monster