Study Guide

John Flynn in Miranda v. Arizona

By Supreme Court of the United States

Advertisement - Guide continues below

John Flynn

Ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at one of the "ten people who changed the way you live but you have never heard of " (source).

Kind of a clunky title, but hey, can't win 'em all.

Bottom line: make sure to give a silent thank-you to Mr. Flynn the next time you're being read your rights. Which will be never, obvs.

Flynn was a charismatic, photographic memory-wielding lawyer in Arizona who took Ernesto Miranda's case from local crime trial to SCOTUS case.

Some fun facts about Flynn's life:

  • He lied about his age to get into the military during World War II (where he was injured twice).
  • He got through law school with a straight-C average. 
  • He was a marathon Vegas gambler.
  • He prospected for emeralds in Ecuador, owned a pecan farm, knew how to brand cattle, and was married four times.

Anyone have the movie rights to that?

But Flynn got serious on the job in Arizona, where he developed a reputation as the best criminal defense lawyer in the business there, maybe ever.

The case that rocketed Flynn to big-time recognition (at least in Arizona) involved the abduction of a very wealthy woman named Evelyn Smith in 1952. Flynn successfully defended the man accused of kidnapping her, and thanks to the trial, the Arizona court created a rule that said if you refuse to be a witness against yourself (as in, confess to something), that refusal cannot be used as a point against you in court. Flynn successfully argued that you can freely refuse to answer questions and that it won't come back to bite you.

Flynn's desire to protect people who might be lost in the legal system (because of, say, ignorance of their rights) led to his involvement in his claim to fame, Miranda v. Arizona. He argued in front of the Supreme Court that most people brought in front of the police are immediately at a disadvantage, and therefore need to be protected so that they're not taken advantage of. He gave a passionate speech concerning the rights and protections of suspects in custody, and the Supreme Court was impressed (well, the majority of it). You can see Flynn's influence when you read Warren's Opinion, particularly the part about the "inherent pressures" of the custody environment.

Oh, and Flynn's law firm went on to represent Ernesto Miranda in his later run-ins with the law (source). He didn't charge him a cent.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...