It's been said that the United States Supreme Court could never overturn Miranda v. Arizona because it's become such a fixture in American pop culture. From countless TV shows and movies, most of us could recite the so-called Miranda warnings by heart: "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law," etc.
When I took a bar review course many years ago, the instructor related how his mother - who knew almost nothing about criminal law or procedure - called him after hearing that Ernesto Miranda had been killed, and her comment was something along of the lines of "Isn't that awful, after all that good man did for the rest of us?" Of course, the truth is that Mr. Miranda may not have been a model citizen, but the point to our constitutional rights (in Miranda's case, the Fifth Amendment) isn't based on the guilt or innocence of the suspect.
And we should try to remember that in the Michael Brown case.
Today, the police released information that Mr. Brown may have been involved in a robbery before he was shot (a robbery because there was the alleged use of force in the theft of some cigars). People are getting rather worked up about whether:
a. The police are making it all up (including, apparently, surveillance video that appears to depict Mr. Brown),
b. Why the police waited 6 days,
c. Why the police haven't arrested Mr. Brown's alleged accomplice, and so on.
To all of that I say, who cares??
The facts about the alleged robbery will eventually sort themselves out. But does any of that matter? No, because whatever Michael Brown did or didn't do with respect to those cigars and that store, we need to know what happened immediately before he was shot. And so far, there are no facts that suggest that the police were justified in shooting him.
That's the issue that matters and that's the issue that we need to focus on.
We don't talk about giving up our Miranda rights based on whether Ernesto Miranda was a good guy or not. Constitutional rights protect everyone, from saint to serial killer. And one of those constitutional rights is not being shot dead when you're not posing a threat to anyone.
So, resist getting worked up about whether the photos show someone in shorts or long pants, sneakers or flip flops, questions about why the police waited to release the information and all the rest of it.
Honor Michael Brown - and his family - by keeping the focus on the police's conduct in shooting Mr. Brown. And no matter what happens to the police officer who pulled the trigger, working on trying to make sure it doesn't happen to the next Michael Brown.