A story of this heavy social, emotional, and constitutional bearing needed the sincere sensitivity and courage that director Michelle Danner treated it with. But then again, there’s no other sensible or even acceptable way to look someone as brave as Patricia “Trish” Weir in the eye, 60 years after a kidnapping and rape case that derailed the very trajectory of how her life was supposed to pan out. And while the respectful focus never really shifts from the traumatizing impact Ernesto Arturo Miranda’s crimes had on Trish and the people close to her, the grounded storytelling in Miranda’s Victim isn’t stingy with the thrill that you’d expect from such a groundbreaking, consequential trial.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
It was all supposed to go pretty smoothly for Trish. An 18-year-old high schooler from Arizona, she’d been brought up with the values you’d associate with the conservative society of the 1960s. I doubt she’d even kissed a boy before her workplace crush, Jimmy, sort of asked her out. What she was supposed to have at the end of that dreamy bus ride with Jimmy was a night of tossing and turning and thinking about the next date. But fate had other things in store. The shivering Trish that came home late that night had been abducted, assaulted, raped, and dropped off at the very same place that she was picked up from. If it wasn’t for her sister, Ann, Trish would’ve had a far harder time getting herself to the police station to even file a report. The only silver lining in the nightmare that she was drowning in when she’d least expected it was Detective Cooley turning out to be a gem of a man—as headstrong as he needed to be for his line of work and as soft and patient as a person is supposed to be when handling a case this delicate.
What Made It Difficult For Trish To File The Report?
It was the 1960s. The ultimate goal of becoming the perfect housewife was the gospel girls were taught before they could even grow up enough to know what dreams were supposed to be. Education and that much sought-after secretary job were mere qualities needed to bag the right groom. In a time like that, the value associated with a woman’s virtue was of great significance. So it’s no surprise that Trish’s mother, a victim of rape by her own admission, didn’t want her daughter to ruin her prospects by going public with it. All she really could get herself to care about was Trish marrying into a good family. And judging by the way Jimmy gives her the cold shoulder now that he knows that she’s not a virgin anymore, Trish’s mother wasn’t entirely illogical in being paranoid about her course of action. It’s that gnawing feeling inside Trish that doesn’t let her sleep, knowing the man is out there hurting God knows how many more women. That isn’t something Trish can make peace with. And luckily, her mother’s relentless intimidation and manipulation tactics do nothing to keep her from going back to the station. Granted, Cooley was far more supportive and gentle than you’d expect a detective from the 1960s to be, but what you have to keep in mind about Trish is that, to her, the words she needs to get herself to speak out loud are sacrilegious. Ann and Cooley do their absolute best to make her as comfortable as possible, but it’s ultimately Trish’s undaunting courage that compels her to break free from her mental blocks and do everything in her power to make sure that the criminal is caught.
How Was Ernesto Miranda Caught And Convicted?
The fact that Trish didn’t really get a good look at the perp or his car made it quite a challenge for the detectives to know where to look or who to even look for. Cooley had the one thing that makes for a great detective: his spot-on instincts. The same gut feeling that told him that Trish wasn’t making it up also nudged him to connect the case with the series of assaults on women downtown. With his partner’s assistance, it was just a matter of days before he was knocking on Ernesto Miranda’s door, ready to lie through his teeth just to get him to come down to the station. The make, the plate, and the rope in the backseat of the car registered in his live-in partner Twila Hoffman’s name were enough for Cooley to conclude that Miranda was the man he was after. Not too bright and unaccustomed to the good cop technique, Miranda was digging himself a deeper grave with every word he spoke. It took Trish an insane amount of courage to go through each step of the process, which proved to be too intense for the other women that Miranda had assaulted. From showing up to going through the excruciating waiting period to pointing Miranda out from the line-up to standing right in front of him, the only thing that kept Trish going was her undaunting determination to put the man behind bars. Miranda, the naive man who needed his wickedness validated, played right into the hands of the detectives and signed the confession. From thereon, at least legally, it was a piece of cake for the prosecutor, Lawrence Turoff, to build a case and get Miranda convicted.
Why Did Miranda’s Trial Go To The American Supreme Court?
It wasn’t that no one tried to get Miranda exculpated of his crimes. The defense attorney, Alvin Moore, especially took it upon himself to plead to the jury that the way Cooley got the signed confession wasn’t by the book. He failed, of course. But there was no stopping the ACLU from wondering what course the case would’ve taken had Miranda been told that he didn’t need to confess to his crimes without an attorney present. Their argument was that Miranda, with his 8th-grade education, could’ve easily been intimidated by the big bad detectives into signing a confession to a crime he didn’t commit.
Miranda’s files were dropped on John Flynn’s table—the biggest, most famed, and nastiest criminal defense attorney respected and feared by all. It was frustrating for Turoff to see all the work he’d done to get Miranda’s victims justice go down the drain two years after he won the case. And by the time he acknowledges that a man like Flynn has no conscience, he has no choice but to sit and watch the whole thing fall apart. When it inevitably goes to the Supreme Court, the bad guy gets another shot at getting away with his crimes, and something happens that transforms the very foundation of how cops are to conduct themselves when arresting or questioning suspects. All those times you’ve heard American cops in police procedurals saying “You have the right to remain silent” and so forth originated right here in Ernesto Miranda’s complicated trial and retrial. It was after this whole debacle that cops were compelled to let suspects know that they have the right to an attorney and they can choose not to say anything in police interrogations. But the newly enforced “Miranda Rights” were the last thing on Trish’s mind when she heard that there was a chance that her worst nightmare would come true.
Did Ernesto Miranda Get Convicted At The Retrial?
Miranda’s Victim is hardly ever subtle. But subtlety isn’t something a movie like this would benefit from either. Things play out, almost mirroring a documentary. Yet there’s no scarcity of tender emotions and, most importantly, the communication of them. You can practically see that even though Trish’s life doesn’t pan out even close to the way that she deserves, at the same time, there are visible signs of emotional aging in her. For someone who chose the smarter route and opted for her name to not come out during the trial, it’s understandable why she’d choose to keep it buried around her new husband, Charles. And the more you get to know about that awful enforcer of all things misogynistic, the more you understand why, even after having a daughter with him, Trish wouldn’t trust him with her most vulnerable secret. Did you see the look on his face when the doctor delivered the news of the girl child?
Trish didn’t owe any truth to that man. But she owed the truth to herself. And even though it took a lot of effort from Turoff and the part of her mind that knew the only right course of action, Trish did overcome her fears and armored up to fight him in court. This time around, the matter of the most significant worry was Charles’ reaction if he got to know the woman he married and had a kid with was raped. A man like that, chock-full of hatred against womankind, would feel like he’d been duped. And that, unsurprisingly, is his exact reaction to the sudden knowledge. Yet it’s a good thing that he got to know it the way he did. Who knows if Trish would’ve ended up taking the right step if she’d delayed letting him in on the situation any further? Here’s where another crucial and consequential part of the whole ordeal comes to the forefront. It’s always been a team effort. Other than Trish, the person who already had and still stood the chance to lose the most, no one person was doing more than another when it came to getting her justice.
Turoff did his part by providing Trish with all the support and encouragement, while Cooley and Co. gave Charles a dose of his own medicine to get him to act right. All that was left to do then was the hardest part of all. Winning a case where the prosecutor can’t bring up anything that’s happened in the timeline spanning from Miranda’s arrest up until the first trial itself seemed practically impossible to achieve. And when you throw a cutthroat attorney like Flynn into the mix, you know they’ve got a doomed situation in their hands. And that’s when the biggest blessing turned up in the form of Twila Hoffman. She’d been doing better since Miranda’s sentencing, understandably. The reason why she came in is discussed covertly, away from the prying eyes and ears of the audience. What’s the fun of not waiting for the grand reveal? Now, Flynn was not playing around and was wielding a pretty solid, bulletproof case. He wasn’t particularly prepared for the Arizona prosecution to get backing from someone as significant as Miranda’s live-in partner. But that doesn’t mean it’d take someone like Flynn longer than a few days to find enough dirt on her to pin her down in front of the jury.
What his apathetic perspective failed to foresee was the impact Trish’s experience would have on the jury. All those sustained objections couldn’t stop the jury from hearing the truth. Trish’s painful meltdown in court only goes to show just how difficult it had been for her to relive something she’d rather not think about over and over again. She persevered through it all and survived far worse than she could’ve expected from her life. She wasn’t about to let the fear of how it’d impact her marriage keep her from making Miranda pay for what he’d done. Flynn put up a worthy fight, as you’d expect from him. But a few measly fraud accusations thrown Twila’s way did nothing to stop her from rattling the jury with the claim of Miranda’s very recent admission to committing the crime. The ending sequence is where Miranda’s Victim adjusts its tone a little to leave the audience with the lingering impact of what it has to whisper about. Sure, Trish’s name was kept out of all sorts of reporting as per her wishes. But the celebrity status that Ernesto Miranda was given thanks to his name popping up every time someone mentioned Miranda Rights was not how things should’ve turned out. It was, however, essentially poetic justice that Ernesto Miranda’s murderer wanted to exercise his Miranda rights when the police caught him.