I think we’ve all heard it in a film or on TV. For sure, we don’t want to be the one to whom it’s directed: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer …”
As you know, this is called the Miranda warning (or Miranda rights) and it stems from the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. But who was Miranda and what was the crime?
“Miranda’s Victim” is the story behind the required recitation of the Miranda rights. The film, supported by an outstanding cast and obviously talented director, starts out following a lone car on a desolate, dark, desert road. Headlights are about all we see. Then, in a flashback we see the sequence of events earlier in the day. A mother is dropping her teenage daughter, Patricia “Trish” Weir, off at work at a movie theater. She makes sure the top button of Trish’s blouse is buttoned up and waves to her shy and obviously over-protected daughter as she leaves for her job at the theater. The year is 1963 and the theater is featuring “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
After work, Trish takes a bus home with a guy who also works at the theater. Soon after she is dropped off, around midnight, at her stop. A guy, Ernesto Miranda, comes out of his car, grabs her and ties her up in his car. He is driving the car we initially saw out on the desolate road into the desert. At knife-point he rapes her and then returns her where he picked her up.
Ernesto Miranda had an eighth-grade education. Once apprehended by clever Arizona policemen, he confessed to the crime and was sentenced.
But wait! He not only did not know about the Fifth Amendment, he was not told about his Constitutional right to remain silent and he was not told he had the right to talk to a lawyer for advice.
The film takes us through an emotional journey. There had been other attacks, but no girl would speak up. The crime was too embarrassing and marked the victim. Shy, unpretentious Trish Weir is indeed the courageous heroine of the film, but coming in a close second is our Constitution, which protects all Americans from coerced admissions.
I’m hoping “Miranda’s Victim” resurfaces during awards season, not only so that it might win some awards, but so that it might garner the attention of so many of us who just never knew the origin of the Miranda rights and the importance of saying them.
Director: Michelle Danner
Screenplay: J. Craig Stiles
Story: George Kolber, Richard Lasser and J. Craig Stiles
Producers: George Kolber, Valerie Debler, Alexandra Guarnieri, Michelle Danner and Brian Drillinger
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Ryan Phillippe, Luke Wilson, Emily VanCamp, Andy Garcia, Mireille Enos, Enrique Murciano, Josh Bowman, Brent Sexton, Taryn Manning, Kyle MacLachlan, Donald Sutherland
Available: In Select Theaters and On Demand
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