Miranda Rights and Raps: Phoenix Rapper Mr. Miranda Talks About His Late Uncle Ernesto

You know that part on cop shows when they read people their rights? You can remain silent, says Jerry Orbach, and if you don't the cops can use what you said against you. If you can't afford a lawyer David Caruso tells you the court will provide you with one.

Perhaps you know those are called Miranda Rights and if you're really into this legal stuff maybe you know they're named for an Arizona man named Ernesto Miranda who sued the state of Arizona after being convicted of rape based on a confession he'd given to police without being informed of his basic constitutional rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out his conviction for rape and kidnapping -- police say Miranda was a predator who picked up a number of women at the corner of 7th Street and Missouri in Phoenix to rape and rob them -- but Ernesto was later re-tried and re-convicted. He served about a third of his sentence and was paroled but was murdered only a few years later after a fight in a Phoenix bar. He's buried in Mesa City Cemetery.

Ernesto is also the great uncle of local rapper Mr. Miranda, the subject of this week's music feature in our print edition. Mike Meyer touched on the subject in his interview with the rapper (real name: Dave Miranda) but I wanted to follow up with more questions about his Uncle Ernie.

Read on for a Q&A about Uncle Ernie. It's fascinating stuff if you're into Arizona history or constitutional law...

Up On The Sun: Your great uncle Ernie died seven years before were you were born. How and at what age did you become aware of the fact that he was one of the best-known civil rights plaintiffs in American history?

Mister Miranda: I was eight years old and my grandfather had told me that when we were watching a movie and I overheard one of the people in it mention "Miranda Rights," so I instantly asked him if they were speaking about our family and he replied "Yes, your uncle Ernie is responsible for that, actually," and then he explained the story to me.

UOTS: How is he thought of inside the Miranda family? Obviously your family name will always be associated with him -- is that a source of pride or frustration or a mix of both for the Mirandas?

MM: Nah, my family doesn't look at it like it is anything negative for the simple fact that they never looked at him as a "legend" or [history maker] from the start. My grandfather just looked at him as his baby brother who he loved and always tried to keep out of trouble. Therefore there is no lack of pride in honoring the Miranda name in my family.

UOTS: Is it true that Ernie used to sign Miranda warning cards and sell them, or is that an urban legend?

MM: No, that is just a ridiculous rumor that has always been floating around. Think about it: Famous athletes and actors/actresses weren't even signing autographs like that then, so what would make anyone think that Ernie would be signing warning cards? He worked when he got out of prison because he had to -- as far as his parole requirements -- so he didn't have to do all that.

UOTS: Your uncle was convicted of rape, robbery, kidnaping and some other pretty terrible crimes. He also seems to have just fallen into some bad situations. Do you think he was a violent and dangerous man or just had a tough life?

MM: Ernie certainly had a rough childhood. When all of his brothers went to the military he was left all alone with his stepmother who didn't care for him and treated him terribly. She used to charge him to iron clothes. He was extremely lost and depressed but was still a good kid, just didn't have any proper guidance but was human like anyone else and unfortunately made some mistakes.

UOTS: Is it true that the man who stabbed your uncle to death exercised his Miranda rights and fled the country or is that an urban legend? People seem to look at that as some sort of ironic "justice." Do you suspect the police who released his killer may have felt that way, or how do you feel about that episode?

MM: There were two suspects. One died and the other was arrested but was released through the courts due to "not enough evidence" being provided. The system certainly didn't care for Ernie, though, because he changed the way they were operating things, but it also made a difference for the better on the cops behalf because they had to make sure that they did enough research in order to remain accurate in their arrests. Regardless, the world is in a much better place from the times in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, all thanks to my uncle, Ernesto Miranda.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar