Book Review by Frederick R. Petti
Miranda: The Story of America’s Right to Remain Silent by Gary L. Stuart
Printed in Arizona Attorney
First, my disclaimers. My firm provided funds that helped make possible the publication of Gary Stuart’s Miranda: The Story of America’s Right to Remain Silent. Moreover, the book speaks glowingly of my former partner, the late John Frank, as well as my current partner, Peter Baird. Finally, I am blessed, along with Jim Belanger and Steve Hart, to carry forward this firm’s rich tradition of practicing criminal law, a tradition built on the efforts of former Lewis and Roca lawyers such as the late John Flynn, Robert Jensen, Michael Kimerer, Jordan Green and Ed Novak.
Having said all that, Mr. Stuart’s book is a pretty good read. It will never be confused with Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet, a superbly written history of how one semi-literate drifter from Florida convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse its earlier holding inBetts v. Brady and find that indigent defendants were entitled to a free lawyer in non-capital state criminal cases. But Stuart’s work follows a structure similar to that ofGideon’s Trumpet, providing a history of the Miranda decision that begins with the investigation that led to the arrest of Ernesto Miranda in connection with a series of sexual assaults and robberies that occurred in Phoenix in 1962 and 1963.
The book is at its best when it details how a young Phoenix police detective, Carroll Cooley, traced down various leads to connect Miranda with a 1953 Packard sedan used in the rape of an 18-year-old women who worked at the downtown Paramount Theater. Stuart then describes how Cooley and his partner used the results of an inconclusive lineup to convince Miranda – without using what we now call Miranda warnings – to confess to one rape, on robbery and one attempted robbery (a photo of the actual lineup can be viewed on the Arizona State Archives Web site at http://photos.lib.az.us).
Stuart next takes his reader through Miranda’s trials. On consecutive days, Miranda was first tried and convicted of robbing a young woman of eight dollars following a bungled attempt at a sexual assault, and then tried and convicted of raping another woman. Miranda had the same counsel for both trials, and the prosecutor and the judge were also the same.
Although the author is critical of Miranda’s trial counsel in general, Stuart notes that Miranda’s lawyer did have the foresight to object to the admission of Miranda’s confessions in both cases, arguing that in the absence of warnings concerning his right to counsel and that his statements would be used against him, the confession was involuntary and should be suppressed. Of course, the object was overruled, and Miranda’s confession was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court.
After discussion the background of the four companion cases that were joined with Miranda’s before the U.S. Supreme Court, Stuart takes his reader through John Frank’s development of the Miranda brief and his decision to allow John Flynn to argue the case to the Supreme Court. Stuart notes that, “The combination of Frank’s written brief and Flynn’s oral advocacy produced a lucid yet wholly extemporaneous quality, as if he were merely speaking his mind and heart honestly, without forethought.”
Stuart points out that Frank’s Miranda briefs were based on a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel. But during oral argument Flynn, in response to a question from Justice Stewart, made the “bold assertion that the Fifth Amendment, not the Sixth, made Miranda different from its predecessors.” Stuart argues that Flynn’s bold assertion to Justice Stewart may have been the spark that generated the firestorm.
The Court ruled that from June 13, 1966, forward no confession was admissible in any court of law unless the suspect was first warned and advised of certain basic constitutional rights and procedures under the Fifth Amendment.
Stuart devotes the rest of his book to Miranda’s retrials (he was convicted even though his confession to Detective Cooley was suppressed), his death in 1976 and the enduring legacy of the case that bears his name. Of particular interest is discussion of the Dickersoncase, in which the Fourth Circuit held that under 18 U.S.C. § 3501 (a law passed by Congress in 1966 in response to Miranda), a confession was admissible as long as it was voluntary, regardless of whether the Miranda warnings were given to a defendant. In a 7-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Miranda, holding that Miranda, being a constitutional decision of the Court, may not be in effect overruled by an act of Congress.
Stuart’s Miranda is good and an easy read. The author takes the time to let his reader know about all the lawyers in Arizona who played a role in Miranda, and it is a who’s who in the Arizona bar. We all should be grateful that Stuart did such a find job recounting the history of what is arguably the most important case in criminal law. And he reminds us what an important role lawyers in Arizona had in that case.