50 years of Miranda

my Trade Tripper column in this 23-24 July 2015 issue of BusinessWorld:

It’s a familiar movie scene: a fugitive running from the police. After a thrilling chase, he is apprehended, pinned violently against a car, and then someone, the usual maverick detective hero, would swaggeringly mutter: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Those words expressly embody the “Miranda rights” and last June 13, 2016 was the 50thanniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling that instituted those rights into law.

The whole thing started on March 13, 1963, when 22-year-old laborer Ernesto Arturo Miranda (already possessed of a rap sheet that included including robbery and sex offenses), pointed out by a witness, was arrested by the police for the kidnapping and rape of Lois Ann Jameson.

After two hours of interrogation, Miranda confessed -- freely giving details, identified his victim and the victim identified him back. He was promptly convicted and sentenced to 20-30 years imprisonment.

On appeal, Miranda argued that he had no lawyer at the time he made his confession and was therefore unaware of his right to remain silent. According to his lawyer, this amounted to an invalid involuntary confession.

This despite the fact that the 5th and 6thamendments of the US Constitution never mentioned the requirement to inform a suspect:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”

There is, after all, also the rule of “ignorantia legis neminem excusat.” Even our 1935 (and 1973) Constitution didn’t require informing a culprit. Hence, Article IV, Sec. 19 of the 1935 Constitution merely provides that: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf.”

Nevertheless, Chief Justice Earl Warren pointed out that, due to the coercive nature of “custodial” investigations, for a confession to be admissible a waiver of the right to remain silent should be made by the culprit only after he was informed of his rights.

The Philippines would embody Miranda expressly in Article III, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution: “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.”

Note that Miranda rights apply only during the “custodial” phase of a criminal proceeding, described in Philippine jurisdiction as beginning when “the investigation ceases to be a general inquiry into an unsolved crime and direction is then aimed upon a particular suspect who has been taken into custody and to whom the police would then direct interrogatory question which tend to elicit incriminating statements.” (People vs. Dela Cruz, 1997).

As for Ernesto Miranda himself, he would be retried and convicted after the 1966 ruling; the police dropping his confession and (along with other evidence) relied instead on the testimony of a woman Miranda was cohabiting with and who claimed he admitted to her of committing the rape. After being paroled in 1972, Miranda -- aged 34 -- would be killed four years later in a bar fight.