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The Obvious of Rights

Last week, news was reported that Adam West, the first and real Batman, had passed away. He brought humor to an otherwise supposedly serious character, which is saying a lot when you consider that he and his sidekick Robin were running around in tights and a cape. It doesn’t seem like that’s the usual suit for a crime fighter.

One scene in the Batman series is a good window into the kind of show that it was. Batman walks into a nightclub and walks up to the maître d’. He asks Batman: “Ringside table?”. As usual, Batman was wearing a mask, cape and purple body suit. Despite the obvious disguise, Batman responded, “No, thanks. I’ll stand at the bar. I would not wish to be conspicuous.”

I start the blog out with that story as a nod to Adam West and also as a setup to a piece of legal history that now seems obvious. On this day in 1966, The U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Miranda v. Arizona.

Miranda had been questioned by the police, had confessed, and had signed a written statement without being told that he had a right to a lawyer. His confession was then used at trial, which led to his conviction. Ultimately, his conviction was overturned.

Chief Justice Warren wrote the controversial opinion by applying the 14th Amendment of the Constitution because everyone should have the right to speak to an attorney at critical stages of an investigation relating to their interrogation in custody, or else the “prosecution may not use statements made by a person in police custody unless certain minimum procedural safeguards were in place”. And it’s the Miranda Warning or Miranda Rights that has become legendary in television crime shows, that now seems obvious (even Batman knows):

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?”

As a footnote to that opinion, Miranda was ultimately retried in 1967. This time, the prosecution did not use his confession. Instead, other evidence and witnesses were called. Miranda was convicted and sentenced to serve 20-30 years. He was paroled in 1972 and then returned to live in his old neighborhood. He went on to earn a modest living by autographing the “Miranda cards” that police were now carrying after the original opinion.

And here’s another obvious statement!

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And for pic o’ day, after that legal history, here’s another thought on what to do before giving a statement?

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