Opinion: Five Words That Changed America

Apr 21, 2021, 12:39 PM | Updated: 12:49 pm
criminal justice reform handcuffs prison...
FILE: Handcuffs at the Oquirrh 1 housing facility at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News
This is an editorial piece. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with the KSL newsroom.


We all know the five words. We grew up watching Columbo or NYPD Blue, and now we binge Law and Order. So, when a police officer begins “You have the right to remain silent,” we can finish, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk to a lawyer. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you.”

We know the “Miranda warnings,” but do we know the story behind Miranda? The case of Miranda v. Arizona that went to the Supreme Court in 1966, and led to the 5-4 decision written by then Chief Justice Earl Warren? It’s a fascinating story, and until yesterday, I didn’t know it.

I am an alumnus of the University of Utah, so I am eligible to join the Osher Lifelong Learning classes offered through the University (I highly recommend them).

Five words that changed America

I logged on to a class this week taught by two law professors, Amos Guiora (who’s been my guest on KSL often) and Louisa Heiny.

They’ve written a book that is more storytelling than law: Five Words That Changed America. They went back and spoke with the actual people involved. They talked at length with the detective who questioned Ernesto (Ernie) Miranda, a man named Carroll Cooley.

Cooley told them Miranda denied everything for the first hour they questioned him, but after they lied to him and told him the victim picked him out of a lineup, he confessed. That confession was later thrown out based on the ruling that Miranda was not informed of his rights.

The professors explained there is nothing illegal about police lying to a suspect in this way. That happens all the time. And in this case, the interviewing of Miranda was not unnaturally long, lasting only two hours. Cooley was upset with the prosecutors and, therefore, the Supreme Court actually got some of the facts wrong, but not upset about the Miranda warning that resulted from the case. 

“It’s the law,” he said, without bitterness. “But we had a righteous case.”

The case behind Miranda warnings  

The case of Miranda v. Arizona is the story of a repeat sex offender who had served time for multiple crimes and was dishonorably discharged.

He was accused by a rape victim who, when she reported the rape, was dismissed initially by police as “mentally slow.” They actually questioned her virginity. Only when she returned with a partial license plate after seeing the car again did the case start to go anywhere.

This is the story of a brave woman, a rookie cop, a rapist and a Supreme Court Chief Justice who knew that suspects needed to be told earlier in the arrest process that they had a right to an attorney.

Justice Earl Warren knew that suspects were psychologically abused, even if that didn’t happen in this case. He knew that these rights had to be spelled out to suspects because not everyone knew what their rights were, especially those who were poor and not able to hire their own lawyer. 

The book tells the story behind the story. It tells how the Supreme Court got hate mail after the decision, and what happened to Ernie Miranda after he was retried for rape. I can’t wait to read it.

These five words – “The right to remain silent” – came with a story, and it’s one worth knowing.

More from Amanda Dickson 

Opinion: What kind of Americans do we want to be?

Opinion: The earthquake reminded me I’m not alone in my basement

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team. here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Utah Department of Public Safety pilot Luke Bowman talks with media about the mission to rescue peo...
Mark Jones

Pilot says Thursday’s DNR helicopter crash could have been worse

A helicopter crash Thursday in the La Sal mountains could have been worse, according to the chief pilot at Utah's Department of Public Safety Aero-Bureau.
1 day ago
A Unified police vehicle is pictured in Kearns on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. 
Unified Police issued an...
Mark Jones

Child found minutes after AMBER Alert issued, suspect still outstanding

SALT LAKE CITY — Unified Police say the child who was the focus of an AMBER Alert issued Friday night was found minutes after the alert was issued. However, police say the suspect is still outstanding, and is armed with a knife. Police say the suspect, Jonathan Moises Wuanloxten Hidalgo, is 5-feet-8-inches and 180 pounds […]
1 day ago
Kane County...
Mark Jones

Man arrested for alleged theft of large amount of diesel fuel

A man is in custody following the discovery of a large amount of diesel fuel that had been stolen from two service stations in southern Utah.
1 day ago
Gov. Cox Ukraine State of the Union...
Mark Jones

Cox announces full recommendations for fiscal year 2024 budget

The full recommendations for the fiscal year 2024 budget were announced Friday by Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.
1 day ago
Salt Lake City Police took a 44-year-old man into custody on Wednesday in connection to the burglar...
KSL NewsRadio staff writer

S.L. County D.A. declines to charge two officers in shooting, arrest

An ICE agent and Herriman City police detective were the subjects in D.A. Sim Gill's investigation. Gill will charge neither of the officers.
1 day ago
Screen shot....
Mark Jones

Two-vehicle crash on westbound I-80 creates heavy delays

Traffic has come to a near stop on westbound I-80 Friday evening due to a traffic accident.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Opinion: Five Words That Changed America