June 13th, 1966 -- A day that will live in infamy or so law enforcement officers around the nation proclaimed when they read the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. But contrary to the beliefs of its detractors -- Miranda has been a boon to law enforcement. As Yale Kamisar predicted, officers would adapt and develop ways of informing suspects of their rights which would lead few suspects to assert their rights. Indeed, 80% of all adult suspects waive their rights and upwards of 90% of juvenile suspects speak to police.
For our purposes (preventing false confessions) Miranda is practically irrelevant and may actually have done more harm than good. Prior to Miranda, the Supreme Court at least gave lip service to the concern that psychological police interrogation tactics could produce unreliable confessions. Indeed, as Yale Kamisar, has written, Miranda may have been motivated, in part, by the case of George Charles Whitmore, a mentally limited black man who signed a 60 page confession to murdering and sexually assaulting two white female socialites from Manhattan. But after Miranda, courts have given police free reign to rain psychological tactics down on suspects. The mere reading and waiving of Miranda is the predominant factor in the voluntariness inquiry and concerns with reliability have been left to the triers of fact. This is particularly problematic for innocent defendants who almost always give up their rights because they have nothing to hide and then get hit with an avalanche of psychological tactics that can easily overwhelm them.
More importantly, Miranda did nothing to close the "knowledge gap" between what officers say occurred in the interrogation room and what suspects claim occurred, leaving judges and juries to decide voluntariness questions by picking sides in swearing contests. Judges almost always side with police. It's no accident that in almost every DNA exoneration involving a false confession, trial courts have admitted false confessions into evidence and these decisions have been upheld on appeal. Unless and until we require mandatory electronic recording of police interrogations, judges willl be forced to evaluate confession evidence in a vacuum and many false and coerced confessions will enter the evidence stream leading to wrongful convictions.