On April 12, 2016, WLALA Board members Jan Jensen, Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein, Jessica Kronstadt, Magistrate Judge Rozella A. Oliver, Cathy Ostiller, and Ruth Pinkel participated in a Law Day celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Miranda v. Arizona decision. District Judges J. Terry Hatter Jr., John A. Kronstadt and Virginia A. Phillips, WLALA member Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Sheri Bluebond, Bankruptcy Judge Barry Russell, and California Superior Court Judge and former WLALA president Melissa Widdifield also participated in the event.
More than 150 people participated in the event, including students from Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School and Alliance Susan & Eric Smidt Technology High School. College students involved in the California Courts’ JusticeCorps program also attended. After Judge Sandra R. Klein welcomed the attendees, the celebration officially began with a presentation by Professor Laurie L. Levenson of Loyola Law School. Professor Levenson talked about the Miranda decision and its impact on our notion of justice in America. Professor Levenson emphasized the importance of the 5th and 6th Amendments and how “even guilty people have constitutional rights.” She then discussed how the criminal law has been shaped by the Miranda decision. She concluded by impressing upon the students the importance of knowing their rights as she rallied the audience to chant in unison: “I want my lawyer!” “I want to assert my rights.”
Following Professor Levenson’s engaging remarks, District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, Magistrate Judge Rozella A. Oliver and Chief Bankruptcy Judge Sheri Bluebond welcomed the students. Each of the judges provided inspirational remarks. Judge Phillips stressed the importance of assisting and helping others, especially once the students achieve a measure of success in their careers. Judge Oliver emphasized that the students’ success will be limited only by how hard they work and how big they dream. Judge Bluebond concluded the welcoming remarks by highlighting the importance of understanding our system of government. She mentioned that the liberties and freedoms that we enjoy as Americans did not come easy and she reminded the students that they are the future of our nation.
A lunch followed during which judges, lawyers, and other professionals shared lunch with the students and discussed Miranda, the law and the legal profession. Judge Klein encouraged the students to ask the professionals questions about how they were able to achieve their success.
After lunch, Judge Klein introduced the Law Day guest speaker, Captain Carroll Cooley (ret.) of the Phoenix police department. Captain Cooley was the detective who investigated and arrested Ernesto Miranda (Miranda) in 1963 for the rape and robbery of Patricia, an 18-year old woman. Captain Cooley also testified at Miranda’s trial, and again at his retrial after the Supreme Court overturned Miranda’s conviction. Captain Cooley dedicated his career to public service. He served in the U.S. Air Force and he was with the Phoenix police department for more than 20 years.
Captain Cooley’s recollection of the events leading to Miranda's arrest was riveting. The case began around 11:30 p.m. on March 2, 1963, when Patricia was kidnapped, raped and robbed on her way from home from working at a movie theatre in downtown Phoenix. After committing these crimes, the assailant dropped Patricia off a few blocks from where he had kidnapped her. He said, “whether you tell your mother about this is up to you but pray for me.” She reported the incident to the police.
Captain Cooley, a first year detective in the crimes against person detail was assigned to the case. Initially, the only lead he had was from Patricia, who said that the assailant drove a light green car with brown, vertical striped upholstery. However, a week after the incident, Patricia’s relative, Paul, spotted a car driving slowly in her neighborhood and reported the car’s license plate, “312 DFL,” to the police. That license plate, however, was a dead end. Captain Cooley then interviewed Paul, who was certain that the car was a 1953 Packard and that the letters on the license plate were “DFL” although he was not as certain about the numbers on the plate.
A DMV search of all Packards with license plates containing the letters “DFL” revealed that a 1953 Packard, with the license plate, “371 DFL,” was registered to Twyla Hoffman (Hoffman). Captain Cooley went to Hoffman’s address on file with the DMV. The house was empty and he learned from neighbors that Hoffman, Miranda, and three small children had recently moved from that address, using a United Produce truck. After further investigation, Captain Cooley discovered that Miranda worked the night shift at the United Produce Company.
Captain Cooley then went to the Post Office hoping that Hoffman and Miranda had submitted a change of address form. They had and Captain Cooley and his partner, Officer Bill Young, went to Hoffman and Miranda’s new address. When Hoffman answered the door, the officers introduced themselves and asked to speak with Miranda. Miranda came out of the bedroom, where he had been taking a nap, and asked the officers why they were there. The officers said that they would like to speak with him and suggested that it might be better to speak at the police station rather than in front of his girlfriend and children. Miranda agreed and during the drive to the police station, Captain Cooley told Miranda that he did not have to talk to them if he did not want to.
At the police station, Captain Cooley and his partner interviewed Miranda for approximately 30 minutes, explaining that a young woman had been kidnapped, robbed and raped. Miranda denied any involvement. Captain Cooley then asked Miranda to participate in a lineup, which he agreed to do. In addition to the kidnapping, robbery and rape of Patricia, two other women, Barbara Sue and Sylvia had been kidnapped from the same area as Patricia. In both Barbara Sue’s and Sylvia’s cases, the suspect had attempted to rape them but they were successful in thwarting the rapist. Captain Cooley was able to contact Patricia and Barbara Sue to come to the police station to view the line-up. Both women initially identified Miranda as their assailant, but when they were asked whether they were certain, they equivocated.
At that point, Captain Cooley brought Miranda back into the interview room and Miranda asked “how did I do?” Captain Cooley said “You didn’t do so good, Ernie.” Miranda then said “well I guess I better tell you about it.” Cooley said, “Yes, I think you should.” Miranda then confessed to robbing Barbara Sue and kidnapping, robbing and raping Patricia. Miranda also signed a written confession, which stated at the top of the page, “I do hereby swear that I make this statement voluntarily and of my own free will, with no threats, coercion, or promises of immunity, and with full knowledge of my legal rights, understanding any statement I make may be used against me.” Miranda was then tried twice, once for robbing Barbara Sue and once for kidnapping, robbing and raping Patricia. He was found guilty in both trials and sentenced to 20 to 25 years, to be served consecutively.
Miranda’s case was then appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which affirmed. His case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where his conviction was overturned on the basis that his 5th Amendment right to remain silent and his 6th Amendment right to an attorney were violated. Interestingly, Miranda’s confession to robbing Barbara Sue was not appealed so he remained in jail despite prevailing before the Supreme Court.
While Miranda was awaiting retrial, he confessed to Hoffman that he had kidnapped, robbed and raped Patricia. He also instructed Hoffman to take their baby to see Patricia, and he asked Hoffman to tell Patricia that if she agreed not to testify against him during the retrial, he would marry her when he got out of jail. Although Miranda’s confession to raping Patricia and Patricia’s identification of him as the perpetrator were not admitted during his retrial, he was once again convicted of kidnapping, robbing and raping Patricia. He was again ordered to serve 20 to 25 years in prison, to be served concurrently with the sentence he had received for robbing Barbara Sue.
Miranda was released from prison after serving approximately 11 years behind bars. He was unemployed so to earn some money he would ask police officers for extra “Miranda Warning Cards” (Miranda Cards). He would sign the Miranda Cards and sell them for a few dollars each.
The saga took its most ironic turn approximately 9 months after Miranda was released from prison. He was involved in a brawl in a seedy bar. He was stabbed twice with a knife, including a fatal stab to the heart. He died that day on the bar’s dirty floor. Miranda’s murderer was read his Miranda Rights but he was released for lack of evidence. The next day, after the police discovered additional evidence demonstrating that the suspect had actually killed Miranda, they attempted to arrest him. The suspect had fled and has never been apprehended.
The final segment of the Law Day celebration involved Lawrence Middleton, Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Hilary Potashner, the Federal Public Defender for the Central District of California, discussing the impact that the Miranda decision has in their cases. Mr. Middleton mentioned his respect for the decision, stating that despite making his job harder, the decision provides a more just system. He emphasized that this result is consistent with a prosecutor’s duty to uphold the law. Ms. Potashner highlighted the importance of the message of the Miranda decision: that everyone has the right to enjoy the protections provided by the Constitution. Both speakers explained that the relevant issues that are litigated today are not whether a Miranda warning was given. Rather, the issues involving the Miranda decision are more complex and tend to be focused on whether: 1) a defendant actually asserted his or her Miranda rights; 2) a waiver of those rights was voluntary; and 3) a Miranda warning was required to be given at a certain point in time.
Mr. Middleton and Ms. Potashner then explained that the Miranda decision applies to undocumented individuals and a reasonableness standard applies when determining whether a Miranda warning was appropriate. The final question of the day, whether Mr. Middleton and Ms. Potashner enjoy their jobs was answered by both speakers with a resounding “Yes.”
The Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California’s Community Outreach Committee, chaired by Bankruptcy Judge Sandra R. Klein, organized and hosted the Law Day celebration.