Shhhh!

I remember a great story from law school.  My constitutional professor told us a story about his mother and Miranda, the accused on whose behalf the Arizona v Miranda and Miranda rights case was argued.  My professor’s mother lived in Texas.  She always wanted to appear “hip” and “in touch” with his career.  So when an article in the paper detailing Miranda’s death appeared, she read it and sent it to him.  But not without comment.  Apparently, the article detailed Miranda’s life.  The picture painted was not a pretty one.  Rather it was about a career criminal and was written in unflattering terms.  She attached a note to the article questioning the harshness of the article about “this great man”: 

“After all he’s done for the country!”, she wrote.

His mother believed that Miranda had done something good for the country by “creating the Miranda rights.”  He hadn’t.  His lawyers did however but I don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage of their Miranda rights?  As a criminal lawyer, it is still a great mystery.  You’re under arrest by the police.  The police give you the Miranda rights.   But you’re scared . . . nervous . . . worried.  Moreover.  The police are being aggressive or threatening or trying to sound “understanding”.  So when you hear the warnings and the fact that you’re arrested, being given them by the people who arrested you isn’t enough to get you to Shhh . . . think of what they’re really saying:

“you have the right to remain silent.”  (Shhh!!  Don’t talk.)

“anything you say will be used against you.”  (They’re going to use this stuff to hang you in court)

“you have the right to an attorney.” (This can be so bad for you that you can actually have someone in here with you to help you)

“we’ll get you a court appointed lawyer if you cannot afford your own.” (Listen up . . . if you’re poor or indigent, don’t worry.  This could be so bad for you that we’ll give you a lawyer)

“you can stop the questioning at any time.” (We really mean it . . . this could be so bad for you that if you change your mind, that’s ok . . . you can stop it.  You get a do-over.)

I know that good-minded people must be trembling and scared when talking to the police.  Too much so to be able to make good decisions and judgments.  Way too much so to comprehend the scope of the rights involved.  I tried to paraphrase after each one to break it down into a more digestable form.  But if you’re nervous, scared and the police are about to interrogate you just think back to ol Miranda and my law professor’s mom, “after all he’s done for us” and remember to be quiet!  You’re not gonna talk them out of charging you.  You’re only making it worse.  SHHHHH!!

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