On June 13, 1966 the Supreme Court issued its decision in Miranda v. Arizona, establishing for the first time that suspects under criminal interrogation were to be warned of their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. The little four-line ditty mandated by Miranda has since spawned countless motions in limine and episodes of Law & Order. It appears on the back of criminal defense attorneys’ business cards, sometimes dressed up with expletives (‘I have the right not to tell you a f**king thing”), sometimes illustrated, but the fact is we have little need of prompting or reminders. Everyone knows their rights under Miranda, even if not all of us know when we may assert them.
In an article from 2008, Slate blogger Kenji Yoshino argues that the Miranda warning is the most famous legal poem. I tend to agree. If you Google “Miranda” and/or “right to remain silent” and ”poem,” you get all sorts of stuff, mostly amateurish. But I did find one little jewel. Apparently, there is some sort of game platform – “interactive fiction” – called Inform 7. People (programmers maybe? The whole thing is murky to me) design games with prompts that allow others (gamers?) to play. I’ve probably butchered that; if you understand what it is, clue me in. Anyway, I came across this, which is the text for one of these games/stories. It’s a great found poem. I reproduce it below with no changes or edits.
Arrest Them (version 2)
[Create a type of a person that can applied to different persons.]
The guilty is a person that varies.
[Create a new verb for arresting persons.]
Arresting is an action applying to one visible thing. Understand “arrest [someone]” as arresting.
[As the game starts, we randomly select one of the persons in the game as being guilty - but not the player character.]
When play begins:
change the guilty to a random person who is not the player.
[This provides a clue to the guilty person simply by examining them.]
Instead of examining the guilty:
say “[The noun] certainly looks fiendish!”
The Foyer is a room.
The gun is in the Foyer.
Joe and Ed are men in the Foyer.
Sue and Mary are a women in the Foyer.
[A new rule for arresting the guilty party and provide actions as appropriate.]
Instead of arresting a person who is guilty:
say “‘[The noun],’ you slowly begin, ‘you have the right to remain silent…’”
[A new rule for trying to arrest a person who is not the guilty person.]
Instead of arresting a person:
say “[The noun] is not who you are looking for.”