THE MIRANDA RULE
Ernesto Arthur Miranda lived the life of a classic career criminal. It was brief and brutal, and he spent much of it shut away from society.
During his life of crime he did nothing to set himself apart from the ordinary violent criminal. It was fate that turned him into the key figure in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case.
Fate also turned Miranda's name into a three-syllable word repeated thousands of times in newspaper headlines and television shows, as in [Did you read them their Miranda rights?] It even got turned into a verb: [Yes, the suspects have been Mirandized.] Miranda himself became so famous that people paid him for his autograph.
When you make a timeline of the events in Miranda's life, they look like stepping-stones on his own personal road to ruin. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He was fourteen when he got nabbed for his first serious crime. That was in 1954. He'd just graduated from eighth grade when he was caught stealing a car in Phoenix.
Auto theft is a felony, a crime punishable by a year or more in jail. But this was Miranda's first felony conviction, so the judge sentenced him to a period of probation instead. During this time Miranda would remain free only as long as he behaved himself.