The case was decided 5 to 4. Mr. Justice Harlan, with Justices Stewart and White joining, wrote the main dissenting opinion.
I believe the decision of the Court represents poor constitutional
law and entails harmful consequences for the country at large. How
serious these consequences may prove to be only time can tell. But the
basic flaws in the Court's justification seem to me readily apparent now
once all sides of the problem are considered. . . .The new rules are
not designed to guard against police brutality or other unmistakably
banned forms of coercion. Those who use third-degree tactics and deny
them in court are equally able and destined to lie as skillfully about
warnings and waivers. Rather, the thrust of the new rules is to negate
all pressures, to reinforce the nervous or ignorant suspect, and
ultimately to discourage any confession at all. The aim in short is
toward "voluntariness" in a utopian sense, or to view it from a
different angle, voluntariness with a vengeance. . . .
Without at all subscribing to the generally black picture of police
conduct painted by the Court, I think it must be frankly recognized at
the outset that police questioning allowable under due process
precedents may inherently entail some pressure on the suspect and may
seek advantage in his ignorance or weaknesses. . . .
The Court's new rules aim to offset . . . minor pressures and
disadvantages intrinsic to any kind of police interrogation. The rules
do not serve due process interests in preventing blatant coercion since .
. . they do nothing to contain the policeman who is prepared to lie
from the start. The rules work for reliability in confessions almost
only in the . . . sense that they can prevent some from being given at
all. In short, the benefit of this new regime is simply to lessen or
wipe out the inherent compulsion and inequalities to which the Court
devotes some nine pages of description.
What the Court largely ignores is that its rules impair, if they will
not eventually serve wholly to frustrate, an instrument of law
enforcement that has long and quite reasonably been thought worth the
price paid for it. There can be little doubt that the Court's new code
would markedly decrease the number of confessions. To warn the suspect
that he may remain silent and remind him that his confession may be used
in court are minor obstructions. To require also an express waiver by
the suspect and an end to questioning whenever he demurs must heavily
handicap questioning. And to suggest or provide counsel for the suspect
simply invites the end of the interrogation.
How much harm this decision will inflict on law enforcement cannot
fairly be predicted with accuracy. . . . We do know that some crimes
cannot be solved without confessions, that ample expert testimony
attests to their importance in crime control, and that the Court is
taking a real risk with society's welfare in imposing its new regime on
the country. The social costs of crime are too great to call the new
rules anything but a hazardous experimentation. . . .
Though at first denying his guilt, within a short time Miranda gave a
detailed oral confession and then wrote out in his own hand and signed a
brief statement admitting and describing the crime. All this was
accomplished in two hours or less without any force, threats or promises
and . . . without any effective warnings at all.
Miranda's oral and written confessions are now held inadmissible
under the Court's new rules. One is entitled to feel astonished that the
Constitution can be read to produce this result. These confessions were
obtained during brief, daytime questioning conducted by two officers
and unmarked by any of the traditional indicia of coercion. They assured
a conviction for a brutal and unsettling crime, for which the police
had and quite possibly could obtain little evidence other than the
victim's identifications, evidence which is frequently unreliable. There
was, in sum, a legitimate purpose, no perceptible unfairness, and
certainly little risk of injustice in the interrogation. Yet the
resulting confessions, and the responsible course of police practice
they represent, are to be sacrificed to the Court's own finespun
conception of fairness which I seriously doubt is shared by many
thinking citizens in this country. . . .
Nothing in the letter or the spirit of the Constitution or in the
precedents squares with the heavy-handed and one-sided action that is so
precipitously taken by the Court in the name of fulfilling its
constitutional responsibilities. The foray which the Court makes today
brings to mind the wise and farsighted words of Mr. Justice Jackson in Douglas v. Jeannette:
"This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of
constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one
story too many is added."
Questions to Consider
Why does Justice Harlan say the Miranda warnings are not designed to guard against "police brutality or other unmistakably banned forms of coercion"?
According to Justice Harlan, how will the Court's new rules
impair "an instrument of law enforcement that has long and quite
reasonably been thought worth the price paid for it"?
Why does Harlan say the Court's new rules are "hazardous experimentation"?
This case involves the balancing of individual rights against
the desire of society to fight crime. How do Justice Harlan and Chief
Justice Warren disagree in how they believe these rights and values
should be balanced?
Has reading the excerpts from the majority and dissenting opinions changed your opinion about this case? How?