Episode V - What's a Miranda?

The handcuffs clinked and tightened around my wrists, crushing my spirit. My head bowed, I shuffled after my comrades Biscuit and Cracker into the waiting cruiser. The door to freedom slammed shut behind me as I took my seat in the car. We had been arrested. I wish I could state that this is the only story that will feature me being led off in the silver bracelets, but unfortunately, that would be untrue. More importantly, five minutes prior to our arrest, we had made our second fatal stupid criminal mistake (Also known in technical terms as a “SCM”). Our first SCM was probably agreeing to this enterprise to begin with, or stopping for the Volunteer Patrol – in which case this SCM was our third, if you were really counting. Let me attest that one – and only one SCM is plenty to get you in a lot of trouble; so in that respect, we were angling for some sort of SCM record with two or three.

Our fatal SCM, was simple and incredibly boneheaded. We waived our Miranda rights. In case you have been living on the moon, and never viewed a television show, or movie, or heard a radio program, or read a newspaper, the Miranda rights begin in this manner: “You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…” and on from there. They protect your constitutional Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights against self incrimination. In essence, they provide a check upon the police from compelling a confession from you should you be in custody and actually innocent. In plain English, they mean that under the law, you don’t have to say anything – anything at all until you see an attorney.

Now, at this juncture, I feel it is appropriate to state something about the fuzz, or the po-po – otherwise known as the police. Starting with this incident, I’ve had various experiences with them. Later in life, surprisingly enough, I was on the other side of the baton, so to speak, in a law enforcement role in later jobs. I think the police do an excellent job overall, for which I am grateful for; however; I also think there is room for improvement, as there is in any field. But, I also imagine that one can easily formulate their own opinion about the officers that were involved in our arrest as I now continue my narrative about Miranda.

Now, as naïve – or as blockheaded as it may sound, none of us in the band had any idea what Miranda really meant, because we had never done anything bad. And I’m not so much going to say that the officers on scene tricked us, because it makes us look even more pathetic. But what they did say was this: “We just want to get to the bottom of this easily. Now if you want to make things more difficult, you can wait and talk to a lawyer (and then they read the Miranda rights) – but, I’m sure if we all talk now, we can resolve this, and you can be on your way – what do you say?”

Being the enormous saps we were, we fell for it. We signed up, and gave our version of events right there on the spot. The next thing we knew was that Biscuit, Cracker, and I were being patted down and fitted with new jewelry. This was not the simple resolution that we had signed up for. One may be curious what had happened to the Doctor and Mr. Hush at this point. The concern between the Doctor and I had been that since he had no license on his person, and since he had been driving, he was going to be in a lot of trouble. This turned out to be an utterly foolhardy concern, because the Volunteer Patrol had not noticed which one of us had been driving the truck. Or they had forgotten. Either way, it provided a little bit of an evidentiary poser for the police. Since no one had seen the Doctor driving, they couldn’t prove that he had driven without his license. On the other hand, the truck didn’t spontaneously move with us in it. Their solution in this case was quite just: they told the Doctor and Mr. Hush to come in and make a statement, but as long as they had not thrown a balloon, they couldn’t charge them with anything.

For Biscuit, Cracker and I, they had plenty of proof. They had us. They had our foolish preliminary statements. They had the Ogre’s demented ravings. They had the hazy memories of the Volunteer Patrol. And they had the hard evidence of the oodles of full water balloons and the unused water balloon launcher. The evidence, and all of us were taken to the station, where from the car we were transferred into the booking area and plopped on a bench. Our neighbors on the bench were three other guys who were so bombed out of their minds that they noticed our arrival not at all. Unless you can call increased drooling a sign of awareness.

The booking Sergeant immediately took a shine to our case. He proceeded to get the report from the patrol officers, and immediately began to examine the corporeal evidence. Soon his face was beaming with glee. In a matter of minutes he was regaling us with the fact that in California at that time, possession of a water balloon launcher was a felony. He also noted that as there were three of us, we had obviously “conspired” to wreak “mayhem”, and that “conspiracy” was also a felony. He also talked copiously about our vandalism, and our destruction of private property, and then laughed a great deal and told us in no short amount of words that we were going to jail; i.e. juvenile hall for a long time because, as he put it, “You little bastards need to be taught a lesson.” The gist of his rant was that because of riding in the bed of a pickup truck, and throwing at most, six water balloons, we were public enemy number one, and as such, had been charged with two felonies, and three misdemeanor counts. In essence, he threw the book at us. It was at this time, that aside from a whispered agreement to stick together, we decided that we should most likely stop talking.

We were then booked. Mug shots were taken, fingers were printed, and the ink was not removed. Then our earlier mistake came back to haunt us, just as the tell-tale heart drove Poe’s murderer mad. One by one, the police took each of us off to be interrogated, as we had said we didn’t want a lawyer initially. Later, I learned that we should have been re-warned of our rights. But at the time, I guess the information we possessed was so compelling to the public good, even though all of the “deadly weapons” had been confiscated that immediate interrogation was necessary and imperative. Finally, it was my turn. I’m not going to tell you that the cops roughed me up, or played good-cop/bad-cop. It was none of that. It all seemed plain vanilla at the time, as I told, what I thought, was a fair – but mitigating version of our culpability.

Then, we were released to our parents. I considered asking the police for remand at that moment when I saw the enraged visages of my parents, wondering if I would actually be safer in a cell. I will skip the bitter scorn and furious wrath that emanated from my parents, and the justifiably harsh familial punishments that were handed down. I will focus on the aftermath. Mostly, my parents had been frustrated that I had so idiotically waived my constitutional rights. Once it had been fully explained to me, I began to feel dumb. But when my father and the other parents obtained the transcripts of our interrogations, that was when the absolute idiocy of my mistake seeped into my being.

I received the transcripts first. My father hurled them at me in my room – well, at my bed and mentioned something about my intelligence in not so flattering tones, and then mentioned that finally, I would fully understand how dumb I was. He left, and I picked them up. Our names had been blacked out, but I could tell who was who. After all, there were only five of us. Three people in the bed, and two in the cab – because the Doctor and Hush had given statements too – albeit with their parents present. Soon I found my statement. And then it hit me. I might not have remembered the exact words I had said, but I knew that the words on the page were mine – with the exception of several others. Those others were phrases like “Yeah, we wanted to go out and you know, severely hurt innocents…maybe maim some people.” Quickly, I flipped to Biscuit’s and Cracker’s narrations. And again, similar odd words popped up like mine. With growing frustration, I realized that we were screwed, as we had no way to prove we hadn’t said those things – even though we hadn’t.

And then the final betrayal came. Sullenly, I flipped through the Doctor’s account, which was more accurate than ours, portraying us as foolish, but not malicious. I almost didn’t read Hush’s. Idly, I opened it. I was about to close it when I saw it. It said: “I wanted to go home, but they told me to get in the car or they’d beat me up.” Mystified, I kept reading. Hush hadn’t been charged with anything, because he hadn’t done anything. And yet, scared out of his mind, with his parents, and in front of the police, even allowing for misprints or exaggerations, he had concocted an outrageous tale of violence that we had wanted to perpetrate, labeling us the darkest souls to walk the face of the earth in no uncertain tones.

Gradually, my shock waned, and I was able to speak, and then comprehend that Hush’s account was of no matter. It was like any misstatements in any of our accounts – impossible to disprove. And if we had any reprisals against Hush, that would make us look like the paradigms of evil he had described. Fortunately, while I was learning such lessons the hard way, cooler heads were brokering deals for us miscreants. The felony charges were dropped off the record in the deal, and we were offered restitution and community service in exchange for the misdemeanors. Plus, since we were all minors, our records would be expunged on our eighteenth birthday, which later happened. So, in reality, all of these events are just a story, because nothing remains but memories to corroborate it; so, it is equally likely that perhaps, it never happened at all.

If it had just been our memories, that contention could be a possibility. On the other hand, the incident spread through our school like wildfire the next week, negating any chance that it was just a story. The Gardener’s party was suddenly an amazing fete, for spawning such antics. Our actual arrest was a mystery, with accounts ranging from the truth, to high-speed chases, gang fights, and other tawdry events. The fact that the police, despite their word, pulled us out of class one day for no real reason only added to our notoriety. And Hush? Those of us involved never forgot. We covertly passed the word of his deeds, and equally as silently, his circle of friends withered and diminished. And that was where my infamy began to change me. And, as my first adventure, it will always be something that I will never forget – just as I will never forget about my Miranda rights!

Next Week – On belay for Pizza!