Miranda warning still controversial 50 years later


by Sybil Hoffman


Posted on March 9, 2013 at 11:52 AM

PHOENIX -- The Miranda warning is arguably the most widely used phrase by law enforcement.

Now, 50 years after Phoenix police arrested Ernesto Miranda, the Captain who got his confession explains why he believes the landmark Supreme Court case ruling has done more harm than good.

"You have the right to remain silent, anything you say, can and will be used against you."

It's the warning made famous on television and in the movies.

It was March 1963 when Phoenix police arrested Miranda for kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old Valley woman. 50 years later, the police Captain who got Miranda's confession, explains "I didn't agree with the Supreme Court. I didn't then and I don't today."

Three years after Miranda's conviction, the American Civil Liberties Union took on his appeal.

"I felt like I was being the butt of the joke so to speak, I was the villain in this thing," Cooley said.

Because for Cooley, it was his case before the Supreme Court, not the other rape cases of which Miranda was convicted.

Alice Bendheim was on the ACLU board when the Miranda appeal arrived.

"This is the one he confessed to without having been warned in advance," said Bendheim.

Bendheim explains the reason the ACLU took the case, "Here we could vindicate a constitutional right and yet we weren't setting free a rapist."

Vindication Cooley found, and still finds, unnecessary.

"We didn't require them to speak against their will," he said.

The 5th Amendment guarantees the right against self incrimination, meaning suspects have never been forced to talk.

In Cooley's opinion, the court went a little too far.

"They extended and went beyond what I think the constitution says," he remarked.

But Bendheim argues, "Even though it's in the constitution and nobody knows it's there, it might as well not be there."

Bendheim believes the Miranda ruling created a better, more fair system.

"When you have the police with no restraints on them whatsoever, that is by definition a police state. We don't want to live in a police state, we want to live in a state where it's better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent person is convicted. If we convict the wrong person, that means that the guilty person is still out there and doing bad things," Bendheim stated.

"If you turn a guy loose because he's smart enough not to tell you anything and he goes out and commits another crime just like it, somewhere else, what's the justice in that?" Cooley asked.

In honor of the 50th anniversary, the Phoenix Police Museum is unveiling a special exhibit featuring original reports, the signed Miranda card, the room where Miranda was interrogated, and even his jail cell.

The Phoenix Police Museum is located inside Old Phoenix City Hall at 17 S. 2nd Ave. in Phoenix. It will be open to the public on Wednesday, March 13 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m.