Legal Vocabulary and the Miranda Right Warning

by Kristen FescoeNovember 12, 2006

 The Relationship between Comprehension of Specific Legal Vocabulary Words and

Comprehension of Miranda Right Warning
 

A Thesis

Submitted to the Faculty

of

Drexel University

by

Kristen L. Fescoe

in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree

of

Master of Science in Clinical Psychology

November 2003

 

Dedications

 

To Brian, for always being there for me and encouraging me when I need you most. You have held my hand through this entire journey and for that I thank you. To Genna, you are my reason to succeed. Finally to my parents who have both given me what it takes to succeed in life.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to express my gratitude to all of the people who helped me with this project.  First, to my Mother and Father who have loved and supported me my entire life and who have helped me to choose the right paths along the way.  I would also like to thank Naomi Goldstein for agreeing to be my advisor despite the fact that she was already working with so many other students.  I want to extend my gratitude to Steve Platek for agreeing to serve on my committee even though he, like Naomi, was already committed to other students.  Many thanks to Ann Gaulin for taking time away from her busy schedule to serve on my committee and for the invaluable advice she has given me.  A special thanks to Jennifer Weil for her statistical expertise and for her ability to help weave the way through the jungle of SPSS.  I would also like to thank my friends and family for their encouragement and support. Finally, I would like to thank my husband for his love, support, and encouragement throughout the years.  Brian, thank you for staying up late to help me study, for reminding me why I am doing this and for all your many sacrifices.  Most of all, thank you for being who you are and knowing how to make me smile and laugh when I need it the most and for helping me know which things in life are truly important.            

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

List of Tables........................................................................................................................... vi

 

List of Figures.......................................................................................................................... vii

 

Abstract ................................................................................................................................. viii

 

1.   Background and Literature Review....................................................................................... 1

   

         1.1 Introduction.................................................................................................................. 1

 

   ..... 1.2 Juvenile Waiver of Miranda Rights................................................................................ 3

   

1.3 Components of the Miranda Warning ........................................................................... 4

   

1.4 Instruments for Assessing Understanding of Miranda Rights .......................................... 6

   

1.5 Grisso’s 1970’s Study .................................................................................................... 7

                             

..... 1.6 Comprehension of Miranda Rights Instruments-II......................................................... 8

 

..... 1.7 Hypotheses.................................................................................................................. 10

              

2.   Method.............................................................................................................................. 11

      

..... 2.1 Participants................................................................................................................. 11

   

2.2 Procedure.................................................................................................................... 12

            

2.3 Measures...................................................................................................................... 13  

 

2.3.1 Demographic Interview................................................................................ 13

 

2.3.2 Weschler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence................................................... 13
 

2.3.3 Miranda Rights Comprehension Instruments................................................. 13

 

2.4 Method of Analysis..................................................................................................... 15

   

3.   Results............................................................................................................................... 17

 

3.1 Descriptive Statistics .................................................................................................. 17

 

3.2 CMR-II Results ........................................................................................................... 17

 

3.3 CMV-II Results ........................................................................................................... 19

 

 

3.4 Hypotheses Results..................................................................................................... .20

 

3.4.1 Results of Hypothesis One .......................................................................... .20

 

3.4.2 Results of Hypothesis Two........................................................................... .22

        

3.4.3 Results of Hypothesis Three........................................................................ .23

 

3.4.4 Results of Hypothesis Four........................................................................... .23

 

4. Discussion .......................................................................................................................... .25  

 

4.1   Conclusions............................................................................................................... 26


4.2   Limitations................................................................................................................ 27

                                                                                         

List of References ................................................................................................................... 28

 

Appendix A: CMV-II: Percentage of Full Understanding, Partial Understanding and No Understanding            30

     

 

List of Tables

 

1.  Percentage of Adequate versus Inadequate Responses on the CMV-I................................... .8

 

2.  CMR-II Scores: Percentage of Adequate versus Inadequate Responses................................. 19

 

3.  Pearson Correlations: Miranda Rights Scores on CMR-II.................................................... 21

 

4.  Overall Miranda comprehension: Regression Analyses....................................................... 21

 

5.  CMR-II Regression Analysis Scores.................................................................................... 22

 

6.  CMV-II Regression Analyses of all Prongs......................................................................... 23

 

 

List of Figures

 

1.  Sample Description: Age.................................................................................................... 11

 

2.  Sample Description: IQ Score............................................................................................. 12

 

3.  Sample Description: Prior Arrests...................................................................................... 12

 

4.  Overall Miranda Comprehension: Mean Scores............................................................... 17

 

5.  CMR-II Scores: Listed by Warning..................................................................................... 18

 

6.  CMV-II Scores: Total Scores.............................................................................................. 20

 

 

 

 

Abstract

The Relationship Between Comprehension of Specific Legal Vocabulary Words and

Comprehension of Miranda Right Warning

Kristen L. Fescoe

Naomi Goldstein, Ph.D.

 

This study presents an analysis of the relationship between juveniles’ comprehension of specific vocabulary words and their overall comprehension of the Miranda rights warning. Comprehension of Miranda rights was assessed with the Comprehension of Miranda Rights – II (CMR-II), and, understanding of specific vocabulary words was evaluated by the Comprehension of Miranda Rights – Vocabulary – (CMV-II). Participants were between the ages of 13 and 18, residing in a post-adjudication juvenile justice. Findings suggest that although an individual may have a reasonable understanding of specific vocabulary words in a Miranda warning, they may not have a strong understanding of the warning itself. Therefore, when youth are read their Miranda rights they may require more than comprehension of the individual vocabulary words to have a basic understanding of the whole warning.

 

 

Chapter 1: Background and Literature Review

In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape of a mentally retarded 18-year-old woman. While in police custody he signed a written confession. After his conviction, his lawyers appealed on the grounds that Mr. Miranda was unaware of his right to avoid self-incrimination. The United States Supreme Court overturned his conviction. In Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Court established that prosecutors may not use statements made by defendants while in police custody, unless the police have advised suspects of their rights to silence and legal counsel (Supreme Court of the United States, 384 U.S. 436, 1966). The Court specifically opined:

The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent, and that anything he says will be used against him in court; he must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation, and that, if he is indigent, a lawyer will be appointed to represent him....The defendant may waive effectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966).

 

Miranda warnings do not need to be read to all suspects upon arrest. Rather, the police must inform a suspect of his Miranda rights upon taking him into police custody if the police anticipate a confession will be used to convict the suspect (Grisso, 1998). In the case of Colorado v. Connelly (1986), the Court ruled that a waiver is voluntary as long it is not the product of police coercion; in other words, as long as the confession does not result from police misconduct (Kassin, 1997). There are a number of instances when Miranda is not relevant, including: 1) if the suspect offers a spontaneous confession, 2) if the suspect volunteers to remain in police custody, or 3) if the police do not expect the prosecutor to use the confession as evidence (Oberlander, 1998). 

Various attempts have been made to narrow the scope of or overturn Miranda. In 1968 the United Stated Congress attempted to overrule Miranda by passing a law (18 U.S.C. 3501) that allowed a case-by-case voluntariness test. This law allowed the trial judge to consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the confession, such as time elapsed between arrest and confession, whether the defendant knew that he/she was a suspect and whether the defendant knew the nature of the offense. More recently, in Dickerson v. United States (2000), meaning that a defendant cannot be coerced into waiving Miranda rights.

Issues have also been raised regarding the applicability of Miranda to special populations. In Illinois v. Higgins (1993), the Court mandated that police must do “something more” than simply read rights to members of special populations, such as further explanations of the prongs. Children and adolescents are considered a “special population” under this finding. Prior to the 1960’s, the only case involving the due process rights of juveniles was Haley v. Ohio (1948), wherein the Court ruled that coerced juvenile confessions were inadmissible. More recently, the cases of Kent v. U.S. (1966) and In re Gault (1967) affirmed 5th and 14th Amendment protections for juveniles at all stages of delinquency proceedings.

Through multiple court findings, specific factors have been outlined as relevant to deciding the competence of a defendant to waive Miranda rights. The two types of factors include characteristics of the defendant and procedural circumstances.  The Court, in Johnson v. Zerbst (1938), found that the court held that Miranda warnings must be waived by a defendant before his/her testimony can be entered into evidence against them. The finding also instructed that the waiver must be voluntary defendant’s “background, experience and conduct” should be weighed appropriately when judging his/her capacity to provide a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver.  A 1967 case, Coyote v. United States, established that when deciding a defendant’s fate, his/her age, intelligence, and background should be considered (1967).

The courts have specified other factors relevant to deciding the competence of juvenile defendants. In West v. United States (1968), the courts evaluated factors often deemed applicable to decisions of juveniles’ competence to waive Miranda: age (the most common factor), intelligence, education, prior experience with police, physical condition, background, conduct, and psychiatric condition. It was found that several factors were procedural, therefore, not directly relevant, but two factors, age and education related to the characteristics of the juvenile and were, consequently, relevant.  A second case, State v. White (1973), resulted in the identification of three additional factors for consideration; physical condition of the juvenile, mental age or intelligence, and previous experience with the justice system. 

1.2 Juveniles’ Waiver of Miranda Rights

In the 1970’s, Grisso (1977) identified several major variables to assist the court in determining a juvenile’s competence to understand Miranda rights, labeling these characteristics “Indicant Values”. He noted the courts most often evaluated the age of a juvenile, his/her intelligence or mental age, any previous experience with the justice system, and the juvenile’s education and literacy level.

The rights of juveniles receive special attention because, in the context of Miranda waivers, juveniles may possess difficulty understanding their rights and appreciating how to exercise those rights. Previous research has revealed that, in general juveniles do not possess adequate understanding of Miranda Rights. For example, in a Ferguson and Douglas’ (1970) deception study, it was found that youth between the ages of 13 and 17, when interviewed in a simulated police interrogation room, did not adequately understand their rights. Wall and Furlong (1985) examined whether legal education for high-school students would improve overall comprehension. Findings suggested that many of the participants exhibited poor understanding of their rights and how to exercise their rights, even after legal education. These students also demonstrated difficulty understanding rights-related vocabulary. In another study, 11- to 18-year-old participants demonstrated a basic understanding of the right to silence but a less thorough understanding of the right to counsel (Abramovitch, Higgins-Biss & Biss, 1993). Similarly, in another study of the same age group, 57% of juveniles understood their right to counsel, and 67% understood their right to silence. Oddly, the same participants were more likely to assert their right to counsel (77%) than their right to silence (45%) (Abramovitch, Peterson-Badali & Rohan, 1995).

In 1977, a Fry readability analysis found that the Miranda warning was written at a seventh grade reading level (Fulero & Everington, 1995). Typically, ages 11 through 19 equate to grades 5 through 13. Thus, if all juvenile suspects functioned at a normal cognitive developmental level, a significant portion of them would be unable to read at the necessary grade level to adequately comprehend Miranda rights. Compounding this problem, most juvenile offenders have low IQs, significant academic problems, and read well below grade-level (Achenbach, Howell, & McConaughy, 1995) (Lynam, & Moffitt, 1995) (Hinshaw, 1992).

1.3 Components of the Miranda Warning

The Miranda warning varies across jurisdictions and changes over time. Currently, a typical version of the Miranda warning consists of 5 prongs, including: 1) the right to remain silent; 2) anything the defendant says can be used against him/her in court; 3) the right to a lawyer; 4) if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed before questioning if the defendant would like one and 5) if a defendant chooses to answer questions, he/she has the right to stop questioning at any time to request the presence of an attorney (Oberlander & Goldstein, 2001).

A defendant may waive these rights, as long as the waiver is provided knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. In the case of Johnson V. Zerbst (1938) the court expressed:

A waiver is ordinarily an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege. The determination of whether there has been an intelligent waiver ... must depend in each case, upon the particular facts and circumstances surrounding that case...

Some distinctions have been made regarding requirements for a valid waiver of Miranda rights. The first distinction is between “knowing” versus “intelligent”. In People v. Lara (1967) the court held that an adolescent defendant might not “fully comprehend the meaning of the effect of the waiver.” A defendant must have the capacity to both “knowingly” and “intelligently” waive her rights in order to fully comprehend them. “Knowing”, in this context, refers to cognitive and intellectual capacities to understand the terms utilized in a Miranda warning. Intelligent refers to both the intellectual functioning, as well as the rationality that the individual possesses. Therefore, intelligence refers to a rational understanding of the consequences, as well as associations and implications of the act of confession, and, finally, to the form of reasoning ("rational") which lies behind it. Although the two words appear similar, in this context they are not. Although one may “know” what the prongs of the Miranda warning are, they may not be able to “intelligently” apply the meaning to his/her situation.

The second distinction is between “comprehension” and “appreciation” of the Miranda warning. If a person “comprehends” a word or prong included in the Miranda warning, the person understands the superficial meaning of that specific word or prong. To “appreciate” the same word or prong, the defendant must recognize the magnitude or significance of the word or prong. For example, a defendant may comprehend that he has the right to an attorney, but if he is unaware of what an attorney is or does, the defendant may not appreciate why he would want an attorney. Therefore, to be competent to waive Miranda rights, a defendant must both comprehend and appreciate the warnings.

1.4 Instruments for Assessing Understanding of Miranda Rights

Presently, Grisso’s Instruments for Assessing Understanding and Appreciation of Miranda rights (1998) is the recommended evaluative tool for forensic evaluators assessing competency to waive Miranda Rights (Oberlander & Goldstein, 2001). This tool was developed for Grisso's 1970’s research, evaluating adolescents’ comprehension of Miranda rights, and it has since been adopted as a clinical tool. Because this study was conducted in St. Louis County, Missouri, the Saint Louis County version of the Miranda warning was used, potentially limiting the generalizability of the tool’s norms to other jurisdictions and to youth in the 21st century. The St. Louis County version of the warning does not represent a typical Miranda warning in jurisdictions across the US today, as the wording has since been simplified in many jurisdictions (Oberlander & Goldstein, 2001).

            Grisso’s assessment measure consists of the following four instruments which were developed to evaluate various components of Miranda comprehension and appreciation: 1) Comprehension of Miranda Rights (CMR), a tool used to assess a juvenile’s capacity to understand the Miranda warning by asking them to explain the meaning of all the prongs; 2) Comprehension of Miranda Vocabulary (CMV) which assesses a juvenile’s ability to define six legally relevant vocabulary words used in a Miranda warning. 3) Comprehension of Miranda Rights, Recognition (CMR-R) which presents each of the Miranda warning prongs and is followed by a series of statements with meanings bearing some similarity to each Miranda prong. Subjects indicate whether each sentence is the same as or different from each Miranda warning. The CMR-R includes a total of 12 items with 3 statements for each of the four Miranda rights. This instrument is designed to assess understanding without reliance on adolescents’ verbal expressive abilities; 4) Function of Rights in Interrogation, (FRI) was designed to assess adolescents’ ability to apply Miranda rights comprehension to hypothetical situations. The participant is presented with four drawn pictures and corresponding scenarios related to legal processes.  The participant is then asked fifteen standardized questions to assess understanding of the significance of the warnings.

1.5 Grisso’s 1970’s Study

 In his research with these instruments, Grisso found that 20% of participants received prefect scores on the CMR, meaning they had adequate understanding (using the absolute standard) of all four prongs of the Miranda warning. Fifty-five percent of participants received a zero-point response on one or more items, representing a serious deficiency in one or more critical areas of the Miranda warning. Warnings I (right to silence) and IV (right to an appointed attorney) were understood most accurately by the greatest number of participants (89% and 85% respectively). Warning II (statement will be used in court) was understood by two-thirds of participants, while Warning III (right to attorney before and during interrogation) was understood by only 30% of participants.

            Regarding performance on the CMV; approximately two-thirds of participants received zero-point scores for one or more of the vocabulary words. Table 1 shows the patterns of scores for the participants. Over half of the participants received two-point scores for the words attorney, entitled, and appoint. Meanwhile, more than half of the participants received zero - point scores for their responses to the word interrogation. 


Table 1. Percentage of Adequate versus Inadequate Responses on the CMV-I (Copied from Grisso, T., 1981).

Category

Percent of Sample

Adequate (2-Point) Responses on items

I.   Consult

28.3

II.  Attorney

64.7

III. Entitled

77

IV. Appoint

80.3

V.  Interrogation

37.4

VI. Right

26.7

 

 

Inadequate (0-Point) Responses on items

I.   Consult

28.1

II.  Attorney

6.7

III. Entitled

9.3

IV. Appoint

8.4

V.  Interrogation

59.9

VI. Right

9.9

 

            Participants’ scores on the CMR-R showed concordance with scores on the other instruments. Similar to the CMR, the third warning (right to an attorney) was the most difficult for the participants to understand on the CMR-R. Overall, the scores on the three measures had considerable correlations. The correlation between the CMR and CMV total scores were r=.67 and the correlation between the CMR and CMR-R total scores was r=.55. Grisso theorized that this consistency may be indicative of similar abilities contributing to performance on all of the measures.
1.6 Comprehension of Miranda Rights Instruments- II

The passage of more than thirty years made it necessary to create an updated version of this tool. The Comprehension of Miranda Rights Instruments-II (CMRI-II; Condie, Goldstein & Grisso, in preparation) was developed to make the warning more typical across jurisdictions, create new norms for the instruments, include an additional prong of the Miranda warning that is used in many jurisdictions today, and add a supplemental instrument that taps into the voluntariness construct.

            Relevant to the proposed study, extensive revisions were made to the Comprehension of Miranda Rights – Vocabulary – II (CMV-II). The CMV-II includes eighteen vocabulary words, instead of the original six. The additional twelve words include vocabulary from the five prongs of the warning used in the instruments and from other frequently used versions of the warning. The creators of the revised tool felt that adolescents might have difficulty understanding these words; the addition of these 12 words could improve the generalizability of results and applicability of instruments to jurisdictions with other versions of the warning. In addition, if youth have difficulty comprehending and appreciating rights, the CMV-II could help evaluators understand if the difficulties originate from basic semantic understanding of individual words. The original six words were consult, attorney, entitled, appoint, interrogation, and right. The list was expanded and the following vocabulary words were added: silent, questioning, used against, lawyer, statement, afford, advice, remain, present, talk to, confession, and represent.

Goldstein and colleagues (in preparation) have evaluated the way in which juveniles’ vocabulary comprehension correlates with their overall comprehension of the Miranda rights and with performance on the other instruments in the CMRI-II. One aim of my study was to evaluate the relationship between comprehension of specific vocabulary words and more general Miranda comprehension. If a juvenile suspect is unable to comprehend specific vocabulary words, it will be difficult for that youth to comprehend the Miranda warnings or apply them to his situation. This study examined whether understanding of specific vocabulary words predicted overall comprehension of Miranda rights, as well as comprehension of specific prongs within the CMR-II and CMR-R-II. Relationships between specific vocabulary words and FRI scores were also examined.

1.7 Hypotheses

Hypothesis One - Understanding of specific vocabulary used in the Miranda Warning, measured by individual item scores on the Comprehension of Miranda Vocabulary - II, will be related to overall comprehension of Miranda rights scores.       
 

Hypothesis Two - Knowledge of specific vocabulary words on the Comprehension of Miranda Vocabulary - II will be significantly associated with total scores on the Comprehension of Miranda Rights - II, while other words will not.


Hypothesis Three - Understanding of specific vocabulary words will be associated with levels of comprehension of the Miranda prongs in which those words are used. 

 

Hypothesis Four - There will be similar levels of understanding of words youth had difficulty understanding in the 1970s. For example, the youth will demonstrate poorer comprehension of the words consult, interrogation, and right than they will of the other words that were included in the original version of the vocabulary instrument.

 

 

Chapter 2: Method

2.1 Participants

            Participants in this study were from a post-adjudicated residential facility. All residents who were fluent in English were recruited to be potential participants between October, 1999 and August, 2003. Ninety-six percent of participants completed the assessment. Fifty-seven male juvenile offenders between the ages of 13 and 18 years (M=15.8; SD=1.3) (see Figure 1) completed the questionnaires. The ethnic distribution was: Caucasian (34.5%), Hispanic (21.8%), African American (14.5%), and other (i.e. multiple ethnicities endorsed) (29.1%). The mean Verbal IQ for the sample was 83.33 (SD=3.6) (see Figure 2). Fifty percent of participants had between 1 and 4 prior arrests, 30.1% ranged from 5 to 8, 14.5% ranged between 9 and 12 and 3.6% were arrested more than 13 times (see Figure 3). 

To be eligible for inclusion, juveniles were required to be fluent in English.  All youths in the facility between October 1999 and August 2000 were approached and asked to participate. No youth refused participation, although data for two youth were excluded because they were discharged from the facility prior to completing the CMRI-II.


Figure 1. Sample Description: Age (Mean = 15.8, SD = 1.34)
 

(Available upon request)


Figure 2. Sample Description: IQ Score (Mean = 83.33, SD = 13.57)

(Available upon request)

 

Figure 3. Sample Description: Prior Arrests (Mean = 5.35, SD= 3.95)

(Available upon request)

2.2 Procedure
 

Assessments were administered by two primary assessors, a clinical psychology doctoral student and an advanced undergraduate student. Data collection commenced after the research assistants could reliably administer and score all instruments. Consent was provided for all youth by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (the organization that had custody of the detained youth). Additionally, letters were sent to parents describing the study and soliciting questions and/or disapproval of their children’s participation. No parents contacted the researchers.

2.3 Measures

< >2.3.1 Demographic Interview – Series of questions to gather demographic information about participants, including race, age, educational level, information regarding parents, etc.2.3.2 Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) – The verbal subtests of the WASI were used to obtain a verbal intelligence score. The subtests required approximately fifteen minutes to complete.2.3.3 Miranda Rights Comprehension Instruments - II: Comprehension of Miranda Rights II (CMR- II). This instrument assesses adolescents’ comprehension of a Miranda warning by asking youth to explain the meaning of each right.  Total CMR-II scores range from zero to ten points.  Responses are scored according to standardized criteria and categorized as "adequate," "questionable," or "inadequate," (with corresponding scores of "two," "one," or "zero").  A pearson correlation established a test-retest reliability of .61 (Goldstein et al., in preparation).Comprehension of Miranda Rights – Recognition – II (CMR-R-II). This instrument assesses juveniles’ understanding of each Miranda warning without reliance on verbal expressive skills.  The participant is presented with a series of three sentences for each of the five Miranda warnings.  The participant is then asked to determine whether each sentence is semantically identical to the corresponding sentence of the Miranda warning.  Correct responses are scored one point each, and incorrect responses are given zero points.  Total CMR-R-II scores range from zero to 15 points. Test-retest reliability was established, r = .75 (Goldstein et al., in preparation).Function of Rights in Interrogation (FRI). This instrument remains identical to that included in Grisso’s Instruments for Assessing Understanding and Appreciation of Miranda Rights (1998).  The FRI assesses a participants’ understanding of the significance of Miranda rights in interrogation situations and legal proceedings.  The participant is presented with four pictures and equivalent scenarios associated with legal processes.  The participant is then asked fifteen standardized questions to assess his/her comprehension of the significance of the warnings. Total scores range from zero to 30. A Pearson correlation of .58 was found for test-retest reliability (Goldstein et al., in preparation).Comprehension of Miranda Rights – Vocabulary – II (CMV-II). This instrument assesses adolescents’ understanding of legally relevant vocabulary words frequently used in Miranda warnings.  While the participant reads a list of words, the examiner reads each word aloud, uses it in a sentence, and reads it aloud again.  The participant is then asked to define the word or term. Twelve words were added to Grisso’s original six to increase generalizability of the instruments throughout the United States.  Scores are assigned in the same manner as those on the CMR-II and scores range from zero to 36.  A test-retest correlation coefficient of .77 was found for this instrument (Goldstein et al., in preparation). 

 

Chapter 3: Results

3.1 Descriptive Statistics

A mean overall Miranda comprehension score of 1.56 (SD= 0.29), with scores ranging from 0 (no understanding) to 2 (full understanding) was found in this sample. Figure 4 shows the frequency of mean scores of overall Miranda comprehension.

Figure 4. Overall Miranda Comprehension: Mean Scores (Mean = 1.56, SD=0.25)


3.2 CMR-II Results

A mean CMR-II score of 7.6 (SD = 2.45), with scores ranging from 0 (no understanding) to 10 (full understanding) was found. Forty-one point eight two percent of participants received a score of zero (no understanding) on one or more prongs of the instrument. Twenty-five and a half percent of participants received a zero point score on only one item, and 1.82% of youths received a zero-point score on all five items. Twenty-five point four percent of participants demonstrated full understanding by receiving a score of 10.

Mean scores for individual prongs on the CMR-II ranged from 1.27 (SD = 0.83) on Warning I (right to remain silent) to 1.89 (SD = 0.37) on Warning IV (if you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed you).

Ninety point nine-one percent of adolescents received adequate (2-point) credit on Warning IV (if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you), whereas, 63.64% of participants received inadequate (0-point) credit on Warning V (you have the right to stop questioning at any time).


Figure 5. CMR-II Scores – Listed by Warning. Mean item scores listed for each warning, ranging from 0 (no understanding) to 2 (full understanding).
 

Table 2. CMR-II Scores: Percentage of Adequate versus Inadequate Responses

Category

Number

Percent

Obtained zero-point credit

 

On one item

14

25.45%

On two items

5

9.09%

On three items

1

1.82%

On four items

2

3.64%

On all five items

1

1.82%

On one or more items

23

41.82%

 

 

 

Adequate (2-point) responses on items

I

28

50.91%

II

39

70.91%

III

30

54.55%

IV

50

90.91%

V

35

63.64%

Inadequate (O-point) responses on items

I

13

23.64%

II

7

12.73%

III

7

12.73%

IV

1

1.82%

V

11

20.00%

_____________________________________________

Note. Range 0 - 10; Mean = 7.60; SD = 2.45.

 

3.3 CMV-II Results

            The CMV-II yielded a mean item score of 1.24 (SD = 0.40) and a mean total score for the instrument of 22.02 (SD = 5.33). Several vocabulary words appeared to be better comprehended by participants than did others. Specifically, ‘silent’ (m=1.91, SD=0.40) and ‘afford’ (m=1.85, SD = 0.41) were easily understood by many of the participants. Words, such as ‘consult’ (m=0.65, SD=0.70) and ‘right’ (m=0.82, SD=0.58) appeared more difficult for youth to define.

Figure 6. CMV-II Total Scores. Frequency of total scores on the CMV-II, possible scores range from 0 (no understanding) to 36 (full understanding). 

                 

 

3.4 Hypotheses Results

3.4.1Results of Hypothesis One

The first goal of this study was to evaluate whether understanding of specific vocabulary used in the Miranda warning would be associated with overall Miranda rights scores. Pearson correlations ranged from -0.01 (afford) to 0.58 (remain). See Table 3 for all correlations. In addition, a series of multiple regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the relationship between a single vocabulary word on the CMV-II and overall Miranda comprehension score, controlling for age and IQ. The words ‘interrogation’ (b=.318, SEb=.038, p=.023), and ‘remain’ (b=.305, SEb=.088, p=.022) significantly predicted overall Miranda comprehension. See Table 4 for all results of these regression analyses.


 

 

Table 3. Pearson Correlations: Miranda Rights Scores on CMR-II

Category

r

p

Words

 

 

Consult

0.358

           0.004

Attorney

0.188

           0.087

Silent

0.142

           0.153

Questioning

0.087

           0.265

Used Against

0.250

           0.034

Right

0.300

           0.014

Lawyer

0.400

           0.001

Statement

0.072

           0.303

Entitled

0.489

            0.000  

Afford

-0.012

           0.465

Advice

0.049

           0.364

Interrogation

0.506

            0.000  

Remain

0.577

            0.000  

Appoint

-0.004

           0.487

Present

0.385

           0.002

Talk To

0.299

           0.014

Confession

0.392

           0.002

Represent

0.507

            0.000  

 

 

Table 4. Overall Miranda comprehension: Regression Analyses

Category

b

SEb

p

Words

 

 

 

Consult

0.063

0.050

           0.608

Attorney

0.043

0.052

           0.708

Silent

0.118

0.152

           0.243

Questioning

0.096

0.055

           0.374

Used Against

-0.066

0.036

           0.587

Right

-0.007

0.066

           0.959

Lawyer

0.168

0.055

           0.139

Statement

-0.163

0.039

           0.140

Entitled

0.161

0.041

              0.22

Afford

0.040

0.071

           0.690

Table 4 Continued

 

Advice

-0.008

0.040

           0.935

Interrogation

0.318

0.038

 0.019          

 

Remain

0.305

0.088

           0.017

Appoint

-0.119

0.040

           0.281

Present

0.238

0.048

           0.049

Talk To

0.224

0.051

           0.058

Confession

-0.305

0.058

           0.058

Represent

0.168

0.046

           0.193

 

3.4.2 Results of Hypothesis Two

            To analyze how an individual’s vocabulary comprehension was associated with his CMR-II total scores, CMR-II total scores were regressed on all of the CMV-II words simultaneously. Scores on the words ‘entitled’ (b=.319, SEb=.333, p=.013), ‘interrogation’ (b=.287, SEb=.298, p=.023) and ‘remain’ (b=.299, SEb=.772, p=.022) were the only words that significantly predicted total CMR-II score. See Table 5 for results of each word.

 

Table 5. CMR-II Regression Analysis Scores

Category

b

SEb

p

Words

 

 

 

Consult

0.036

0.465

           0.790

Attorney

-0.054

0.457

           0.649

Silent

0.09

1.372

           0.400

Questioning

0.009

0.479

           0.931

Used Against

0.06

0.318

           0.631

Right

0.126

0.592

           0.372

Lawyer

0.144

0.491

           0.222

Statement

-0.188

0.348

           0.100

Entitled

0.319

0.333

           0.010            

Afford

0.01

0.640

           0.928

Advice

0.066

0.358

           0.538

Interrogation

0.287

0.298

           0.023

Table 5 Continued

 

 

 

 

Remain

0.299

0.772

           0.022

Appoint

-0.071

0.352

           0.531

Present

0.125

0.412

           0.290

Talk To

0.118

0.456

           0.335

 

3.4.3 Results of Hypothesis Three

            To analyze if an individual’s vocabulary understanding was associated with comprehension of the specific Miranda prongs in which those words were used, a CMV-II altered score was created for each prong and was comprised of the vocabulary words from the CMV-II that were present in each individual prong. CMR-II scores for each prong were then regressed on the altered vocabulary for each prong. Only the altered vocabulary from prong III (consisting of the words right, talk to, and lawyer) significantly predicted the CMR-II score for prong III (b=.318, SEb=.054, p=.03). See Table 6 for results associated with each prong.

Table 6. CMV-II Regression Analyses of all Prongs

Category

b

SEb

p

Prong

 

 

 

Prong I

0.07

0.047

           0.610

Prong II

-0.164

0.093

           0.456

Prong III

0.318

0.054

           0.030

Prong IV

-0.019

0.064

           0.900

Prong V

0.271

0.023

           0.065

 

3.4.4 Results of Hypothesis Four

This study suggested that youth had worse levels of understanding of Miranda- related vocabulary words today than they did in the 1970’s. Overall, participants in the current study displayed poorer comprehension on the original six vocabulary words than youths did in the Grisso (1981) study. The current sample showed an increase in two-point scores on only the word interrogation (1970’s score = 37.4%, current score = 43.6%). There was a decrease in two-point responses for the remaining five words. Similarly, scores for all words, except interrogation, received a greater number of zero-point responses. For instance, entitled went from 28.1% of youth receiving a zero-point response in Grisso’s study to 41.8% in the current study. Similarly, appoint went from 8.4% of youth receiving a zero-point response to 29.1% in the current study.

 

 

Chapter 4: Discussion

The primary goal of this study was to evaluate the relationship between comprehension of specific vocabulary and more general Miranda comprehension. Results of this study suggest that a youth’s inability to understand a specific vocabulary word does not necessarily impact his overall understanding of the full Miranda warning. Although several words (e.g. interrogation, remain, and present) were found to be predictive of overall Miranda comprehension, findings suggest that an individual’s knowledge of vocabulary did not explicitly predict comprehension. The small amount of predictability intimates that while vocabulary is a contributing factor to Miranda comprehension, it is not the sole explanatory variable. This indicates that other factors are directly involved in youth’s comprehension of Miranda rights and these factors may be more predictive than vocabulary comprehension.

Results further imply that in order to waive Miranda rights, juveniles must possess more than just comprehension of individual vocabulary words. Therefore, there are other processes necessary to fully comprehend Miranda Rights, such as higher order processing. Juveniles below a certain level of cognitive functioning may be unable to understand and appreciate the prongs of the warning regardless of how well they comprehend the specific vocabulary words.

The data suggest that while a high level of predictability is not present, some vocabulary words are more predictive than others. This indicates that understanding of these specific words may be more important for comprehending the Miranda warnings than would comprehension of other words. Why comprehension of these eight words better predicts overall Miranda comprehension is unknown, yet several possibilities exist. First comprehension of these words may correlate with a higher reading or education level. It is also possible that the same higher order processes required to comprehend Miranda prongs, may also be necessary to comprehend these eight words.

The findings of the current study also suggest that, although an individual may have a reasonable understanding of the vocabulary words associated with a specific Miranda warning, he will not necessarily have a strong understanding of that entire prong. This provides another piece of evidence for the idea that basic understanding of vocabulary words may not be sufficient for comprehension of a Miranda prong. This phenomenon may be similar to the idea that a higher order thinking process is required to comprehend the entire warning. Simply stated, comprehension of the entire prong is more complicated than the comprehension of the individual vocabulary words. Although a juvenile may have adequate vocabulary comprehension, he may not possess the higher order processes necessary to comprehend the prong.

4.1 Conclusions

The findings of the present study have implications for juveniles’ waiver of Miranda rights. Results suggest that juveniles with a high level of vocabulary comprehension still may not have the capacity to understand and waive their Miranda rights. It may be necessary, upon arrest of a minor, for police to implement special precautions to ensure that the juvenile has full understanding and appreciation of the rights before an interrogation begins. This may include a more thorough explanation of each of the Miranda rights, followed by a series of questions or probative discussion to ensure the minor has full comprehension of what a waiver of rights means.

Further study is also needed to evaluate what processes are responsible for making the connection between simple vocabulary comprehension and overall Miranda Comprehension.

4.2 Limitations

Results of this study must be interpreted within the context of the study’s limitations.   First, the relatively small sample size limits the generalizability of the results. The absence of females from this sample also limits the ability to generalize the findings across genders.  In addition, the single study location limits the ability to generalize to the larger population. Finally, a large number of analyses were conducted as part of this study. Therefore, there was an elevated chance of Type I error, potentially resulting in false positive results. However, given that significant results were found for some vocabulary words and not for others within single analyses, some vocabulary words are, likely, relatively more predictive of understanding than are others.

 

List of References

Abramovitch, R., Higgins-Biss, K. & Biss, S. (1993) Young persons’ comprehension of waivers in criminal proceedings. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 35, 309-322.
 

Abramovitch, R., Peterson-Badali, M. & Rohan, M. (1995) Young people’s understanding and assertion of their rights to silence and legal counsel. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 37, 1-18.
 

Achenbach, T., Howell, C. & McConaughy, S. (1995). Six-year predictors of problems in a national sample of children and youth: II. Signs of disturbance. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 34, 488-498.
 

Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157 (1986).

Coyote v. United States, 380 F.2d 305 (1967)
Dickerson v. U.S., 530 U.S. 428 (2000).

Ferguson, A. and Douglas, A. (1970) A study of juvenile waiver. San Diego Law Review, 7, 39-54.

Fulero, S. & Everington, C. (1995). Assessing competency to waive Miranda rights in defendants with mental retardation. Law and Human Behavior, 19, 533-543.
 

Goldstein, N. E., Oberlander, L. B., Kalbeitzer, R., Osman, D., & Geier, J. (submitted). Juvenile offenders’ Miranda rights comprehension and self-reported likelihood of offering false confessions.
 

Goldstein, N. E., Oberlander, L. B., Mesiarik, C., Kalbeitzer, R., & Osman, D. (in preparation). Psychometric properties of the Miranda Rights Comprehension Instruments-II.

Grisso, T. (1981). Juveniles' Waiver of Rights: Legal and Psychological Competence. New York: Plenum Press.

 

Grisso, T. (1998). Instruments for Assessing Understanding and Appreciation of Miranda Rights. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resources Press, Inc.

 

Grisso,T. and Pomicter, C. (1977) Interrogation of juveniles: an empirical study of safeguards and right waiver. Law and Human Behavior. 1, 321-342.

Haley v. Ohio 332 U.S. 596 (1948).
 

Hinshaw, S. (1992). Academic underachievement, attention deficits, and aggression: Comorbidity and implications for intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,  60, 893-903.
 

Illinois v. Higgins (1993).

In Re Gault, 387 U.S. 1; 18 L. Ed. 2d 527; 87 S.Ct. 1428 (1967)

Johnson v.  Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458; 1938

Kassin, S. (1997) The psychology of confession evidence. American Psychologist, 52, 221-233.


Kent v. United States, 1055 U.S., 1966
 

Lynam, D. & Moffitt, T. (1995). Delinquency and impulsivity and IQ: A reply to Block. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 104, 399-401.

Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)

Oberlander, L. (1998) Miranda comprehension and confessional competence. Expert Opinion, 2, 11-12. 
 

Oberlander, L. & Goldstein, N. (2001). A review and update on the practice of evaluating Miranda Comprehension. Behavioral Science and the Law, 19, 453-471. 

People v. Lara, 432 P.2d 202 (1967).


Oberlander, L. B., Goldstein, N. E., & Grisso, T. (in preparation). The Miranda Rights Comprehension Instruments - II.


People v. Lara, 528 P.2d 365 (Cal.App. 1974).
 

State v. White, 494 S.W.2d 687, (1973)

Supreme Court of the United States, 396 U.S. 868; 90 S. Ct. 140; 24L. Ed. 2d 122; 1969 U.S. Lexis 1137, October 13, 1969.
 

T. Grisso. Juvenile’s waiver of rights: legal and psychological competence. NY: Plenum, 1981. 
 

United Stated Congress (1968) 18 U.S.C. 3501
 

Wall, S. & Furlong, M. (1985) Comprehension of Miranda Rights by urban adolescents with law related education. Psychological Reports, 56, 359-372.
 

Psychological Corporation (1999). Manual for the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. San Antonio, TX: Author.
 

Psychological Corporation (1992). Wechsler Individual Achievement Test Manual. San Antonio, TX: Author.
 

West V. United States, 399 F.2d 467, (1968)

 

Appendix A. CMV-II: Percentage of Full Understanding, Partial Understanding and No Understanding

 

Two-point responses

 

 

Zero-point responses

 

CMV-II Word

Frequency

Percent

 

CMV-II Word

Frequency

Percent

Consult

                  7

12.7%

 

Consult

                   26

47.3%

Attorney

                27

49.1%

 

Attorney

                     4

7.3%

Silent

                53

96.4%

 

Silent

                    -  

0.0%

Questioning

                15

27.3%

 

Questioning

                     4

7.3%

Used Against

                24

43.6%

 

Used Against

                   26

47.2%

Right

                  5

9.1%

 

Right

                   15

27.3%

Lawyer

                21

38.2%

 

Lawyer

                     3

5.5%

Statement

                13

23.6%

 

Statement

                   22

40.0%

Entitled

                21

38.2%

 

Entitled

                   23

41.8%

Afford

                48

87.3%

 

Afford

                     1

1.8%

Advice

                21

38.2%

 

Advice

                   10

18.2%

Interrogation

                24

43.6%

 

Interrogation

                   30

54.5%

Remain

                52

94.5%

 

Remain

                     2

3.6%

Appoint

                17

30.9%

 

Appoint

                   16

29.1%

Present

                44

80.0%

 

Present

                     7

12.7%

Talk to

                25

45.5%

 

Talk to

                     5

9.1%

Confession

                22

40.0%

 

Confession

                   12

21.8%

Represent

                13

23.6%

 

Represent

                   23

41.8%

One-Point Responses

 

 

 

 

 

CMV-II Word

Frequency

Percent

 

 

 

 

Consult

22

40.0%

 

 

 

 

Attorney

24

43.6%

 

 

 

 

Silent

2

3.6%

 

 

 

 

Questioning

36

65.5%

 

 

 

 

Used Against

5

9.1%

 

 

 

 

Right

35

63.6%

 

 

 

 

Lawyer

31

56.4%

 

 

 

 

Statement

20

36.4%

 

 

 

 

Entitled

11

20.0%

 

 

 

 

Afford

6

10.9%

 

 

 

 

Advice

24

43.6%

 

 

 

 

Interrogation

1

1.8%

 

 

 

 

Remain

1

1.8%

 

 

 

 

Appoint

22

40.0%

 

 

 

 

Present

4

7.3%

 

 

 

 

Talk to

25

45.5%

 

 

 

 

Confession

21

38.2%

 

 

 

 

Represent

19

34.5%