Retired Phoenix Police Captain Carroll Cooley, the arresting officer in the case that led to the Supreme Court’s landmark Miranda rights ruling, recently passed away at the age of 87.
According to a statement from the Phoenix Police Department and information from the family, Cooley died in hospice on May 29 after battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Joining the Phoenix Police Department in 1958, Cooley served for two decades before retiring. It was on March 13, 1963, that Cooley arrested Ernesto Miranda for the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old woman in Phoenix.
Miranda was eventually convicted based on a handwritten confession he provided and received a sentence of 20–30 years in prison.
However, Miranda appealed his conviction, and the case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1966, the Court issued a ruling overturning Miranda’s conviction, stating that suspects must be informed of their constitutional rights against self-incrimination and their right to an attorney before being questioned.
This decision, along with three other similar cases, led to the creation of the well-known “Miranda rights” or “Miranda warning” that is now commonly heard in police procedural dramas.
According to Cooley, he initially brought Miranda into the station after matching a car license plate and model to Miranda while investigating the case.
Though he was not under arrest at the time, the rape and robbery victim selected Miranda in a police lineup. Miranda also matched descriptions given to police in several unsolved crimes.
Cooley ultimately received a written confession from Miranda, which Cooley claims was given by his own free will.
“They accuse me of telling him what to write, which is absolute BS,” Cooley later said.
The Arizona Supreme Court initially denied an appeal of Miranda’s conviction, writing that his confession was legally admissible as evidence.
However, when the case was eventually brought to the U.S. Supreme Court in regards to violations of the Sixth Amendment, the ruling was overturned.
There, the court ruled that police had violated Miranda’s Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.
Cooley, however, did not agree with the decision. According to his wife, Glee Cooley, the former officer believed the result would obstruct investigations.
“You watch TV programs, the first thing they say is, ‘I want a lawyer,’ so, you never get the information that you need to investigate,” Glee Cooley said. “He thought it was a mistake, but there was not anything he could do about it.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Miranda remained in jail on another conviction but was later convicted again for the rape and kidnapping of the 18-year-old woman. Prosecutors in the second trial did not use Miranda’s confession as evidence and instead relied on testimony from a woman close to Miranda.
After being paroled, Miranda was involved in a fatal stabbing during a dispute at a Phoenix bar in February 1976.
During his career with the Phoenix Police Department, Cooley served in various roles, including the Maryvale precinct, the general investigations bureau and the police academy. He eventually rose to the rank of captain, which is equivalent to a commander in the present-day department structure.
After retiring from the police department in December 1978, Cooley became employed with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. He also volunteered at the Phoenix Police Museum, sharing his story in 2013 as part of a 50th anniversary display on the Miranda arrest.