The real story behind Miranda vs. Arizona
For today’s post, I interview retired Phoenix Police Detective Timothy Moore, who has become a subject matter expert on the history of one of the most important legal decisions in US history. He wrote MIRANDIZED NATION, a book about the fascinating history behind this case and the 1966 US Supreme Court decision, which has become a true crime favorite.
Common paraphernalia used by police detectives in the 1960’s
IM: What do people (and TV and Hollywood producers) get wrong about the Miranda case?
TM: Most people in the US understand that the Miranda decision requires police to advise suspects of certain Constitutional rights before conducting an interrogation. There is, however, more to it. As of now, Miranda Warnings are only required if a suspect is in custody and if a law enforcement officer is going to ask specific questions about a specific crime. Miranda does not attach unless both of these circumstances are present.
IM: What new light does MIRANDIZED NATION shed on a story most people think they know all about?
TM: In the book, I try to explain why we have the Miranda Rights, how the US Supreme Court decision changed the way law enforcement treats citizens in police custody, how the Phoenix PD adjusted to the new law, and most importantly, how the Miranda Warnings helped police departments nationwide become more professional.
IM: Who was Miranda?
TM: Ernesto “Ernie” Miranda was a serial sexual predator who was arrested for the kidnapping, assault, rape, and robbery of an 18-year-old woman. He was also charged with similar crimes against other women in 1959, 1962, and 1963. In researching the book, I discovered exactly how he committed the crime for which his surname became a household name, and why Arizona courts found him guilty on all charges. Miranda lived a violent life and died a violent death. In the end, it fell to the Phoenix PD to solve his murder.
Actual arrest photo, fingerprint card, and lineup used in the Miranda case
IM: How did you get access to behind the scenes information?
TM: Fortunately, I’m on the board of the Phoenix Police Museum with retired Phoenix Police Captain Carroll Cooley. He was the detective who arrested Ernesto Miranda in 1963. In talking with Cooley, I discovered new details about the arrest and wondered why even PPD officers don’t know the true history behind this landmark case. I thought it was time someone told the complete story in a concise nonfiction book while it was still possible to garner firsthand accounts.
IM: Besides Captain Cooley, what sources did you use?
TM: I used primary sources, examining Phoenix Police reports, government documents, newspaper articles and texts. The most interesting part of the research was personally interviewing retired detectives and Ernesto Miranda’s family members.
IM: The book reads like a well-executed docu-drama. I couldn’t put it down. Was it a challenge to turn all of this factual information into a story with a narrative format that would hold a reader’s interest?
TM: I knew I had a massive amount of information on my hands after all that research, and I didn’t want to write a dry textbook. In order to put it into a format that would make a compelling read, I brought in Clark Lohr, an author in his own right and an English major. Clark prevented the book from resembling a police report. The Phoenix metro chapter of Sisters in Crime, Desert Sleuths, assisted with editing and blurbs came from Arizona historians who enjoyed the book.
IM: It certainly worked out well. MIRANDIZED NATION is history that reads like a novel. In fact, there are a lot of little known and bizarre facts about the case that your book brings to light. I found the story of Twila Hoffman particularly jaw-dropping.
TM: Ms. Hoffman was Miranda’s common-law wife. While he was waiting for his trial de novo after the conviction was overturned, he hatched what he thought was a foolproof scheme to avoid a second conviction. He told Ms. Hoffman that he could avoid prison by marrying the girl he was accused of raping. He reasoned that, if she was his spouse, she would never be able to testify against him. Problem solved.
IM: Okay, so Ernie wasn’t a legal scholar. Or a paragon of virtue. You write that he explained to Ms. Hoffman that since she was “only” his common-law wife, that marriage didn’t count and he was free to marry his victim. Then, to top it all off, he had the audacity to ask Ms. Hoffman to go see the girl and negotiate the nuptials.
TM: Yeah, I imagine he was surprised when Ms. Hoffman ended up testifying against him at the new trial. The defense tried to get her testimony suppressed, but the judge ruled it admissible. Since it included a confession that he had in fact raped the girl, he was done.
IM: It didn’t end well for Ernie. In many ways. Thanks for writing such a great book, and for documenting everything that happened while we still have eyewitness accounts. I also salute you for your decades of public service.
Here is a link if you want to purchase MIRANDIZED NATION.