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Miranda by Gary L. Stuart (University of Arizona Press, 212 pages, $24.95) With its 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court guaranteed that criminal suspects would be apprised of their rights — and altered the dialogue of every forthcoming cop show, from “Dragnet” to “Kojak” to “Law & Order.” (“You have the right to remain silent.” Etc.) That may explain why Miranda has become the most famous criminal case in American history and why, according to a 2001 article in the Michigan Law Review, more people can quote its warnings than can quote the Gettysburg Address. Nearly four decades after the Miranda decision came down, where people stand on the warnings remain an ideological litmus test among both liberals and conservatives who argue it either offers suspects too much or too little protection inside police interrogation rooms. With that kind of raw material, Gary L. Stuart’s Miranda: The Story of America’s Right to Remain Silent probably should be a more-engaging read than it is. It’s not that Stuart isn’t uniquely situated to talk about this case. He was a 3L at the University of Arizona College of Law when the Supreme Court ruled on the fate of Ernesto Miranda, a 23-year-old Phoenix truck driver convicted of robbing one woman and kidnapping and raping another. Stuart knew many of the key players and had even taken a course in constitutional law with John P. Frank, the attorney who wrote the Supreme Court brief filed by Miranda’s attorneys. And he admirably set out to write a slim, plain-English book that would be equally accessible to a general audience and students of law. Lay readers get a primer on criminal procedure. Students of the law see how a case percolates to the Supreme Court, owing less to a deficient defense attorney than to a nudge from a local lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union. Interestingly, the right to remain silent was only mentioned in an amicus brief in one of the companion cases. The Fifth Amendment argument that formed the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t mentioned until oral arguments. But too much of the book’s 175 pages are eaten up by regurgitated trial records and appellate arguments from Miranda and its progeny. A full one-sixth of the book is dedicated to the oral arguments before the Supreme Court’s consideration of Miranda and its companion cases. Stuart doesn’t quite capture the human drama behind the legal maneuvering as did New York Times reporter Anthony Lewis with his simple but elegant Gideon’s Trumpet. It’s not all Stuart’s fault. The illiterate Miranda can’t provide the same kind of rich raw materials as Gideon’s surprisingly cogent jailhouse writings. Still, there are interesting tidbits about Miranda’s fate buried within this book. Miranda was tried and convicted a second time under an assumed name because of his new fame. After getting out of prison, he sold signed cards listing Miranda warnings used by police for $2 each before dying in a bar fight — a crime for which police failed to get a conviction. What this book sorely lacks is analysis of the legacy of Miranda. Stuart devotes only five pages to the ongoing debate. The second half of the book — “Miranda in the 21st Century” — is a real disappointment. Most of it is dedicated to brief reminiscences by a series of Arizona lawyers. (Though you can credit Stuart for showing how Arizona produced an outsized number of the figures who have shaped the “law and order” debate including Miranda, Barry Goldwater, one-time Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.) But skeptics on the left or right get a scant few pages in this generally admiring, borderline fawning account of the decision and its aftermath. Stuart’s position isn’t hard to discern: He ends the book with the words, “Thank you, Miranda.” No such thanks would be offered by such critics on the right as Paul Cassell, a Utah law professor turned federal district judge who has argued that the ruling helps free 28,000 suspects a year and has reduced the rate by which police clear violent crimes. In the wake of the Court’s decision in Dickerson v. United States in 2000, which established the right to remain silent as constitutionally protected, Miranda‘s status seems secure — something even its biggest conservative detractor, Cassell, would have to admit. As Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted in his opinion, Miranda “has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t questions around the edges. Just last term, the Supreme Court considered a trio of cases that were decided after Stuart’s book went to print. In one case, it upheld Miranda by saying police can’t interrogate, give Miranda warnings, and then interrogate again. In another, it ruled that juveniles not in custody don’t have to receive Miranda warnings before being questioned. And in the third case, the Court ruled that physical evidence gathered as a result of a suspect’s statement made without a Miranda warning does not have to be excluded from a case. That latter decision added to the multiple exceptions carved out by the Warren Burger and William Rehnquist courts, limiting what constitutes custody and an interrogation and allowing otherwise barred confessions to be used to impeach a defendant’s credibility at trial or prove perjury. What’s clear is that most suspects — as many as 80 to 90 percent — waive their Miranda rights before an interrogation. It winds up protecting savvy suspects while doing little for those who need it most. And the real problem from the perspective of defendants’ rights, which Stuart fails to address, is what happens in the interrogation room once the defendant has waived his rights. As writers, including professor Richard Leo and The Washington Post‘s Peter Carlson, have shown, in the wake of Miranda, cops became conmen, developing ever more creative ways to lie and trick suspects into confessing after casually slipping in Miranda warnings that seem nothing more than formalities. Ironically, the most famous instance of such manipulation came close to the 30th anniversary of the decision in Miranda when agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation assigned to the Atlanta Olympics bombing tried convincing suspect Richard Jewell that their questioning — and his signing of a Miranda waiver — was actually being done for a training video. That may explain why some of Miranda‘s most vocal critics are those on the left who argue it was, as Harvard Law School professor William Stuntz has written, a “missed chance to do something about abusive police interrogation.” Seth Stern is a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor .

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