On every Law & Order episode, we hear the "Miranda Warning" recited as the suspect is being dragged away. Today marks 45 years since the Miranda v. Arizona case went to the Supreme Court. This landmark court decision gives citizens the right to counsel prior to being questioned by police.
The ordinary bloke responsible for the Miranda Rights case-- Ernesto Miranda-- was no stranger to crime. In 1963 he was accused of rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery in Arizona. The police secured a confession, and Ernesto was brought to trial and convicted. In 1966 upon appeal Ernesto's conviction was overturned by a Supreme Court ruling. Lawyers argued that Miranda's 5th amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated. Miranda was not informed he could seek counsel.
Though Ernesto's charges were overturned, Arizona retried him without the confession being admissible. Ironically, despite having the confession squelched, Ernesto was still convicted of the kidnapping/assault charge and served 11 years. After his release in 1973 Miranda worked odd jobs, drifted, and was involved in other petty crimes. In 1976 Ernesto was involved in a bar fight and was stabbed to death. He was only 34. The suspect involved in the incident was never arrested and fled to Mexico. The suspect asserted his Miranda Rights when the police questioned. him.
Perhaps one of the most controversial landmark case is Roe v. Wade. The ordinary citizen behind this case is Norma L. McCorvey, a.k.a. "Jane Roe" for the purposes of the case. In 1969 Norma became pregnant with her third child. She was only 21. Norma sought a legal abortion by claiming she had been raped, which was untrue. In Texas at the time a woman could only legally get an abortion in cases of rape or incest. There was no police evidence a rape occur ed, so she was denied access to a legal abortion. Norma tried the illegal route but was unsuccessful.
Two ambitious lawyers, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, used Norma's story to challenge the policies of the state of Texas regarding a woman's access to abortion. Eventually, after some years of haggling, the Supreme Court cited the 14th Amendment in favor of Roe, arguing that a woman's right to privacy was violated, and that it is a woman's personal decision to choose an abortion. Miraculously, despite many challenges and much controversy, Roe v. Wade has stood since 1973.
Ironically, Norma McCorvey has since converted to the Pro-Life movement. In 1995 she sought to overturn her case, Roe v. Wade, claiming that she was a unwitting pawn of two feminists lawyers. Apparently her case was dismissed as moot.