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Accused Versus Victim’s Rights

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Accused Versus Victim’s Rights
The United States of America relies on due process of law to ensure equal protection of life, liberty and property to all citizens. Police officers work tirelessly to accommodate regulations adopted to ensure only criminals are convicted. These restrictions have been part of the United States since the Bill of Rights was generated in 1791, but in the 1960s, as “Law and Order,” the view that crime must be dealt with harshly to deter citizens from breaking the law, the Supreme Court was forced to decide the constitutionality of the rules of interrogation. In the Sixties, crime was escalating and public safety was becoming a growing concern; police began to treat suspects harsher in an effort to raise conviction rates and promote public safety. In 1966, however, the jurisprudence of the entire US justice system changed when the court of Chief Justice Earl Warren was presented with the case Miranda v Arizona. In this case, the majority decision ruled to protect suspects’ rights, extending equality of protection regardless of legal knowledge or background, not only highlighting the trends of human rights and equality in the Sixties, but also the tensions between criminal rights versus public safety, demonstrating a shift from the conservative ‘law and order’ jurisprudence to more liberal methods of interrogation and conviction.
On March 2, 1963, Ernesto Miranda kidnapped a woman (whose name was not released to the press for her safety), drove her into the desert, and raped her. After an eleven day investigation, Detectives Cooley and Young caught Miranda and took him to police station for questioning. During Miranda’s interrogation, he was told he had been positively identified in a lineup (which was false) and that he could not leave until he gave a full confession. Miranda wrote out his confession on a sheet of paper with a preprinted statement indicating he knew his Constitutional rights and was voluntarily confessing. He was charged with rape and kidnapping in the first degree and, because of the 1963 Supreme Court case Gideon v Wainwright (right to an attorney free of charge)
, the court appointed him 73-year old public defender Alvin Moore. Prosector Lawrence Turoff was assigned to prosecute Miranda and prepared a case around Miranda’s written confession. Moore’s defense focused on Miranda’s ignorance to his legal right to an attorney during questioning, claiming his confession was involuntary. Thus, when Turoff tried to present the written confession to the jury, Moore objected because of the involuntary nature of the confession. Judge Yale McFate, however, overruled his objection because of the preprinted message on the top of the handwritten confession indicating the confession was voluntary
. After a short trial, the jury found Ernesto Miranda guilty of rape and Judge Yale McFate sentenced him to 20 to 30 years in jail.
Moore appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, claiming McFate had abridged Miranda’s fourteenth amendment rights that “no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law” and Miranda’s due process was violated when his involuntary confession was presented to the jury. The prosecution also submitted a brief, stating that Miranda had a fair trial because the law does not require a lawyer during interrogation unless asked for. The decision was written by Justice Ernest W. McFarland after an unanimous vote decided police had not violated any of Miranda’s rights by interrogating him without an attorney thus validating the confession and upholding the conviction. Though Moore, after this decision, stopped representing Miranda, Miranda had not given up and wrote a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court, explaining why his incarceration was unconstitutional. Luckily for Miranda, Robert Corcoran from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had been trying to build a case to help the accused not fall victim to ignorance with the law and heard of Miranda; he then raised the attention of two successful lawyers John P. Frank and John J. Flynn who wrote a writ of certiorari on Miranda’s behalf accompanied by a letter from Arizona assistant Attorney General Gary K. Nelson expressing the importance of the United State’s Supreme Court’s review of the case
. The case was then sent to Chief Justice Warren.
Chief Justice Earl Warren’s court, referred to as the Warren Court, was known for liberal, controversial and social cases and was viewed both positively and negatively by the public. Time Magazine said in 1969, “...the court that Warren led demonstrated its overriding concern with the rights of the individual—even though many critics complained that in some instances it had already gone too far.” Warren’s liberal view of the Constitution faced both praise and criticism from all branches of the government. Dwight Eisenhower, who appointed Warren, later regretted his decision, saying a few years after the appointment that Warren was the “Biggest damfool mistake I ever made.” Nixon’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, however, admired Warren, writing that he was “The greatest Chief Justice of them all.” Warren led a court which University of Chicago Law Professor Harry Kalven Jr. calls having an “appetite for action” and its penchant for “taking on tough social questions where the pressures were very high.” When the Warren court took on the Miranda case in 1966, people were anxious about which side the court would chose: accused rights or the victim’s.
The court interpreted the fifth and fourteenth amendments, and ruled in a five to four majority that Miranda deserved a retrial on the basis that suspects have rights against self-incrimination. In the decision, which took Warren over an hour to read, he spoke about the unconstitutionality of interrogation within the current system, “incommunicade interrogation of individuals in a police-dominated atmosphere, resulting in self-incriminating statements without full warnings of constitutional rights...exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals.” Thus, by not having a lawyer present, or not knowing the right to a lawyer, during questioning, the environment of the interrogation puts the suspect in a situation where he may self-incriminate, therefore not granting him equal protection of the due process of the law, required by the fourteenth amendment. Warren’s decision was approved by Justices Black, Douglas, Brennan and Fortas, who concluded the fifth and fourteenth amendments cannot equally protect citizens who are unaware of the law without being explicitly stated at the time of arrest. The ruling resulted in new protocol for police which obligated them to read the rights to the accused, their “Miranda Rights,” before questioning, and, furthermore, any confession obtained without the suspects’ knowledge of these rights was inadmissible in court. This ruling reaffirmed protection of liberty and equality by stressing the due process regardless of education, background or wealth because it forced the state to pay for attorneys during questioning. Therefore, everyone had equality of knowledge about the law funded by the state. However, many people did not agree with granting a retrial to a rapist on a technicality, thus the decision was controversial and stimulated the vast change in American jurisprudence.
The Sixties “law and order” view of justice, strongly supported by Nixon and Reagan, made jurisprudence in the United States harsh on the accused in an effort to prevent crime. Four Supreme Court Justices, Justices Clark, Harlan, Stewart and White, who made up the dissenting opinion, express the ‘law and order’ principle in their opinion. Justice John M. Harlan, who wrote the dissenting opinion, stressed the added difficulty for law enforcement to obtain confessions, making it too easy for criminals to avoid punishment. Without the harsh treatment of suspects, Harlan argued, people will be less inclined to follow the law. Justice Byron R. White summarized the injustice of the ruling as stated, “As a consequence [of the new procedure] there will be not a gain, but a loss, of human dignity”
. Harlan also questioned the majority reading of the constitution by writing, “The court's unspoken assumption that any pressure violates the privilege is not supported by the precedents and it has failed to show why the Fifth Amendment prohibits that relatively mild pressure the Due Process Clause permits.” The dissenting opinion demonstrated the 1960s conservative public and law enforcement’s frustration with the new liberal jurisprudence, which, they believed, gave the accused too much power because the accused could end an interrogation simply by requesting a lawyer.
When police first heard Warren’s rulings, there were mixed reactions: many believed the new protocols would promote the use of science to more accurately convict rather than unjustly obtained confessions, but many thought that the new rules gave too many rights to criminals and impede law enforcement. The New York City police commissioner said, “It may have good effects because now you'll have to come up with more scientific techniques to solve crime.” District of Colombia district attorney David G. Bress agreed by adding, “Eventually the changes have to sharpen police investigations in other areas and the public will benefit” He said the ruling would, “ good for law enforcement and make for a better brand of justice.” Together, the scientific evidence and sharper investigations will create a “better brand of justice,” which was Warren’s intent. Many police reactions, however, believed the decision would “handcuff the police” and favor suspects’ rights over public safety. New York City police officer was quoted in Time Magazine saying, “It's quite possible that a great number of persons who are in fact guilty will not be successfully prosecuted...How far and how long are the rights of the accused to be considered, with little regard for the rights of the victim?” This officer touched on the social issue of balancing accused rights victims’ rights, which was a major criticism of the ruling by those who believed that the decision infringed on victims rights by, as Philadelphia Police Commissioner Edward J. Bell claimed, “Protect[ing] the guilty.” The suspect’s power to end interrogations meant that until there was sufficient evidence for an arrest warrant, meaning more work for the police. The Boston Police Commissioner Edmund L. McNamara expressed the frustration of obtaining admissible confessions, “Criminal trials no longer will be a search for the truth, but a search for technical error.” The different opinions in the Miranda case represented the ongoing public debate about how to uphold the Constitutional rights of both victims and the accused.
Miranda demonstrated not only the American theme of liberty, but also the liberal and humanitarian shift that occurred in the 1960s during the Warren Court. It showed the growing liberal movement, granting more power to citizens and less to government, demonstrating the human rights emphasis of the era. It also amplified much of the controversy between suspects versus victims rights as seen in the polices’ wide array of reactions. Jurisprudence in the United States, because of Miranda, values foremost suspects’ right to an attorney and right against self-incrimination. Though many think it offers too much protection to suspects and “handcuffs the police
,” there is no doubt that the new system maintains the idea of “innocent until proven guilty,” ensuring only the guilty are incarcerated. The 1966 case Miranda v Arizona proved the American understanding of justice and equality while highlighting issues between balance of rights and ultimately the shift of the justice system to treat everyone equally regardless of law education, money, or race. It was able to achieve such a vast impact because of the Warren Court and has continued to play a crucial role defining the American Justice system as a system in which citizen’s rights are held above all else.

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