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The Right to Remain Silent: Miranda v. Arizona

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“You have the right to remain silent.” Thanks to movies and television, it’s hard to conceive that this simple phrase hasn’t always been a part of our history. But before these words became a common staple of American culture, the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination was virtually impossible to protect.


Then came Ernesto Miranda.

 

In 1963, police investigators followed a trail of clear evidence leading directly to Ernesto Miranda’s front door. He was quickly arrested for robbery and sexual assault and taken to an interrogation room. Miranda was never advised of his right against self-incrimination, or of his Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer. Before long, he confessed.

 

It is this confession that came into question during Miranda’s court trial. Was his confession voluntary? Should he have had a lawyer at the time of his arrest in order to protect his rights? Miranda’s lawyer argued that the confession should be thrown out because his client had been intimidated by police. But the jury quickly convicted Ernesto Miranda and he was sentenced to serve 20 to 30 years in prison.

 

In 1966, Miranda, like Clarence Gideon just a few years before, wrote a handwritten petition for a writ of certiorari from prison – he asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear his case. And it did.

 

The Miranda opinion, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former prosecutor and Attorney General of the state of California, declares that police intimidation threatens human dignity, and that the best way to preserve it is not through the Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights alone, but through a marriage of the two: The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination via the Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer to protect the privilege.

 

The Right to Remain Silent chronicles the legal, social and historical background that led to the Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda decision, including the country’s history of police brutality and the legal controversies regarding the Court’s expansion of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

 

The Right to Remain Silent: Miranda v. Arizona is a story of how a man, guilty of heinous crimes, influenced and ultimately improved the law – and with it strengthened our constitutional rights.

The Constitution Project Website
Visit the Constitution Project website for the latest news and links to view all of the Constitution Project Films.

 

Annenberg Foundation

 

Additional Resources:

 

Credits:

 

Producer, Writer and Narrator, Robe Imbriano
Associate Producers, Gregory Blanc and Tiffany Hagger
Editor, Marc Tidalgo
Graphics Animators, Victoria Nece and Hiroaki Sasa
Photography, Edward Marritz
Production Associate, Stephanie Chang
Coordinating Producer, Heidi Christenson
Sound, Mark Mandler and Roger Phenix
Music, Gavin Allen and Ben Decter
Production Accountants, Mara Connolly and Andrea Yellen
Interns, Jennie Joyce and Kelin Long
Assistant to the Executive Producer, Jo Budzolowicz and Daphne Grayson
Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings
Executive Producer, Tom Yellin

 

Awards:

 

AWARDS WON:

 

Fall 2013 CINE Awards – CINE Golden Eagle Award – Original Digital Division

The Aurora Awards – Platinum Best of Show – Social Studies Category in the Instructional/ Educational/ Training Program Main Category

Best Shorts Competition – Award of Merit – Educational/Instructional Category

Hermes Creative Awards – Platinum Award  – Video/Educational Category

 

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