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        9-12

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        Understanding and Applying the Miranda Decision

        In this lesson students learn about the Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona (1966). This case created the law that police have to read someone their rights before they are arrested, this includes the right to a lawyer.  They will use what they have learn and decide what they would have done in real, recent cases. One case, Yarborough v. Alvarado (2004), affects the rights of juveniles.

        Lesson Summary

        Overview

        In this lesson from The Supreme Court, students learn about the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and apply Miranda to subsequent cases. This is the second of two lessons that comprise a unit on the power and importance of precedent in the decisions of the Supreme Court. For the first lesson, see also Importance of Precedent in the Decisons of the Supreme Court Lesson Plan. For extension activities to use with this unit, visit the Supreme Court website.

        Objectives

        • Explain reasons it is important to uphold precedents and why it may sometimes be necessary to overturn precedents;
        • Analyze two Supreme Court cases in light of precedent and stare decisis: Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Dickerson v. United States (2000);
        • Summarize the Supreme Court decision in Yarborough v. Alvarado (2004), a case that examined whether juveniles are entitled to special procedures for Miranda Warnings.

        Grade Level:

        9-12

        Suggested Time

        (2) 50 minute class periods

        Media Resources

        Materials

        Before The Lesson

        • Prepare the necessary materials, including student handouts, which are found above. If possible, copy each of the handouts onto a different color of paper. This will help you and your students keep track of which handout they should be working with at a given time.
        • Optional: You may consider bringing in a copy of a Miranda Warning card to distribute during the lesson. If your community includes a significant number of people who speak languages other than English, you may also want to bring cards showing those warnings translated into other languages. Contact your police department for help obtaining sample, translated cards.
        • Consider inviting a police officer, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, or judge to help you teach this lesson.

        Day 1

        Part I: Introduction to Miranda v. Arizona

        1. Ask students if they know what police officers must do with a suspect when they put him or her under arrest.
        2. Then ask “What are MirandaWarnings? What do they say?” If students are unsure, ask them to think about television shows or movie scenes in which someone was put under arrest. What rights did the police inform the defendant of?

          -You have the right to remain silent.

          -Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

          -You have the right to an attorney.

          -If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

        3. If you brought a copy of a MirandaWarning card, pass it around the class now.

          Tell students that these rights apply to a person who is being questioned by police and is in police custody. This is called a "custodial interrogation." Then ask, “Would police have to read you a Miranda Warning if they were ...


          ... asking you for directions? (no -- no custody, no interrogation)
          ... asking you which way someone ran? (no -- no custody, no interrogation)
          ... telling you to stop loitering on a corner? (no -- no custody, no interrogation)
          ... asking you and several other students questions in the lunchroom? (no -- no custody)
        4. Tell students that Miranda Warnings are the result of an important case decided by the Supreme Court in 1966, Miranda v. Arizona. The case centered on the protections accused people are guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
        5. Project or distribute the The Fifth and Sixth Amendments Transparency.

          NOTE: If your students are particularly skilled readers, or if you have more time to teach this lesson, you may want to adapt this transparency and include the original language of the amendments.

        6. Distribute the handout Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Related Precedent Cases. Explain to students that in the Miranda decision, the Court essentially said that if police and prosecutors want to admit evidence into trial that was derived from statements a defendant made while being questioned in custody, they must show that the defendant was warned of his or her rights to remain silent and to an attorney. If a defendant can prove that the warnings were not given or that the confession was coerced, his or her attorneys will argue that the confession and evidence obtained through the confession should be "excluded" at the trial. This is called the exclusionary rule.
        7. Explain to students that the Miranda decision was not universally popular when it was made. In fact, even today, some people object to its requirements.
        8. Ask students to pair up with a neighbor and discuss:
        • Who might not like the requirement of Miranda Warnings?
        • What might their objections or concerns be?
      • Give the student pairs five or ten minutes to discuss the questions. Post the ending time on the board. When time is up, ask two or three students to volunteer their answers in a class discussion.

         

        Answers will vary, but will likely include:
        • Police, prosecutors, victims, and their loved ones might feel that guilty people "get off" because of a technicality in police procedures.
        • Others might say that Miranda gives more rights to accused people than it does to victims.
        • Some critics believe the suspects who invoke their rights to remain silent or to an attorney must be guilty.
        • The Court has no business imposing rules on the police. The Constitution does not promise a free attorney or "the right to remain silent."
      • Tell students that one of the critics of Miranda was William Rehnquist, who believed that the Constitution protects individual rights very narrowly. After serving as an Associate Justice for 14 years, Rehnquist became Chief Justice of the Court in 1986. Now he had his chance to try to influence the Court to move in a new direction.
      • Play the The Dickerson Case QuickTime Video. Ask students to pay close attention to why Justice Rehnquist opposed the Miranda decision.  At the conclusion of the segment, ask students to summarize Rehnquist’s views.
      • Part II: You Be the Judge

        1. Ask all students to take out a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Divide the class into two equal groups.

        NOTE: You may want to further divide the class to put students into smaller groups. A group size of three to four may increase participation in the activity. A large group discussion may be better if there are many students who would find the reading level or questions challenging. If you opt for larger groups, you should work with them to encourage participation. A resource person could work with the other half of the class, if available.

        2. Ask a student volunteer to read the directions at the top of the handout Applying Miranda to Dickerson v. United States. Check to make sure students understand the directions.

        3. Ask students to begin working in their groups to complete both handouts. Tell them they have some time to work on the handouts today and that they can complete them at the beginning of class tomorrow or as homework. Write the ending time on the board.

        4. As students are working, circulate around the room to help them. If community resource people have joined you, they can help groups too. Remind students when time is nearly up.

        When there are just a few minutes left in the class, ask students to summarize what they’ve learned by asking:

        • What are Miranda Warnings?
        • When are they required?
        • What is the exclusionary rule?

        Day 2

        Part III: Culminating Activity

        1. Ask a student to summarize what they learned in the prior class. (This will help refresh students' memories and help those who were absent have some context for today's work.)

        2. Ask students to return to their groups from the previous day. Unless they completed work from class the day before as homework, give them time to finish their work. Put the ending time on the board.

        3. Call students back for a whole-class discussion. Distribute copies of Group A handouts to Group B, and the Group B handouts to Group A. (Now, all students should have all four handouts.)

        4. Turn students' attention to the handout Applying Miranda to Dickerson v. United States (2000). Ask a student volunteer(s) to read the facts of the Dickerson case aloud as other students read along silently.

        • Ask students: Do you remember the video clip we watched earlier in this lesson? How did Rehnquist feel about the Miranda decision? Answer: Rehnquist hated the Miranda decision. He did not think it was based in the Constitution. He wanted it to be reversed.

        Project a transparency of the You Be the Judge: Tally Sheet, or write the following four headings on the board: Votes in FAVOR of Dickerson, Votes AGAINST Dickerson, Votes in FAVOR of Alvarado, Votes AGAINST Alvarado.

        • Ask all students: If you were a justice in this case, raise your hand if you would rule in favor of Dickerson (that all suspects must be read their Miranda Warnings when they are interrogated in custody -- and that the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 should not be allowed to dilute Miranda.)

        Ask the students who voted for Dickerson to keep their hands up for a moment. Tally their votes on the board or ask a student volunteer to do so. Then ask the students who studied the Dickerson case in-depth to keep their hands up.

        • Ask those students: What do you think are the best arguments to support your case? (Ask two or three students to give their reasons.)
        • Ask all students: If you were a justice in this case, raise your hand if you would rule in favor of the United States (that the 1968 law is constitutional and police do not have to read every suspect his or her Miranda rights during custodial interrogations, and evidence from confessions without Miranda Warnings is admissible in court as long as police can prove the confession was voluntary.)

        Ask students who voted against Dickerson to keep their hands up for a moment. Tally their votes on the board or ask a student volunteer to do so. Then ask the students who studied the Dickerson case in-depth to keep their hands up.

        • Ask those students: What do you think are the best arguments to support your case? (Ask two or three students to give their reasons.) Answers will vary.
        • Ask all students: How do you think the Supreme Court ruled in this case? Why? Answers will vary.

        5. Show students the The Dickerson Case QuickTime Video (Some of this video will repeat what students saw before in this lesson.)

        • Ask students: What did the court decide to do in the case of Dickerson?

          Answer: The Court ruled that Miranda is sound precedent, and it requires police to read criminal suspects their rights in situations of custodial interrogation. (Dickerson won.)

        • Current Chief Justice John Roberts speculated about why Rehnquist might have upheld Miranda in the Dickerson case, even though he personally disagreed with Miranda. What did Chief Justice Roberts suggest might have influenced Rehnquist?

          Answer: He said that there is a special responsibility in being chief justice -- this person has to protect the institutional stability and security of the Court. The importance of upholding precedent becomes even greater.

        6. Turn students' attention to the handout Applying Miranda to Yarborough v. Alvarado (2004). Ask a student volunteer(s) to read the facts of the Alvarado case aloud as other students read along silently.

        • Ask students: If you were a justice in this case, raise your hand if you would rule in favor of Alvarado (that juvenile suspects should be treated more carefully than adults when police and courts determine when a suspect is in custody and is, therefore, entitled to Miranda Warnings).

        Ask students who voted in favor of Alvarado to keep their hands up for a moment. Tally their votes on the board or ask a student volunteer to do so. Then ask the students who studied the Alvarado case in-depth to keep their hands up.

        • Ask those students: What do you think are the best arguments to support your case? (Ask two or three students to give their reasons.)
        • Ask all students If you were a justice in this case, raise your hand if you would rule in favor of Yarborough (that police should not have to treat juvenile suspects differently when giving Miranda Warnings because such a rule would be difficult for police to apply and for courts to enforce).

        Ask students who voted in favor of Yarborough to keep their hands up for a moment. Tally their votes on the board or ask a student volunteer to do so. Then ask the students who studied the Alvarado case in-depth to keep their hands up.

        • Ask those students: What do you think are the best arguments to support your case? (Ask two or three students to give their reasons.)
        • Ask all students: How do you think the Supreme Court ruled in this case? Why?

        7. Tell students that the Court ruled against Alvarado in a close vote, 5-4. The Court said that Alvarado was not in custody when he was interviewed, so he was not entitled to Miranda Warnings at that time. The Court used many of the reasons given in the classification handout to come to that conclusion.

        Ask students to look at quotes #2, 3, 5, and 7 on the handout Classifying Arguments in Alvarado. These are arguments the majority wrote in its decision.

        Point out that the Court went further in saying that even though juveniles get special consideration in some ways, they are not entitled to special treatment related to Miranda Warnings. Finally, the Court said it was important to have a clear rule for police to apply, and applying different standards for juveniles would make it more difficult for police to determine when Miranda Warnings are necessary. The Court was citing one of the main reasons stare decisis and precedent are important: that rules are consistent and that people can expect certain outcomes when faced with certain legal situations.

        You should also point out that Justice Breyer wrote a forceful dissent. (He disagreed with the majority opinion.) Tell students that quote #8 is from him.

        8. Ask students the following summary/conclusion questions:

        • Why are precedent and stare decisis important?
        • In what circumstances would they be reversed?
        • How did the Supreme Court apply the precedent of Miranda to the case of Dickerson?
        • How did the Supreme Court apply the precedent of Miranda to the case of Alvarado?
        • What are three things you learned in this lesson?
        • What more do you want to know about precedent, Miranda, or the Supreme Court?

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