The card game being played in the dirty La Amapola bar on the 31st of January, 1976 was technically a violation of Ernesto’s parole and he kept glancing nervously at the door. He wasn’t going back to prison again. He emptied his beer, pulled a few dollars from the little pile of change on the bar and slid it to the bartender.
“Hey, vato, that’s not your money,” said one of the players, a very short Mexican with a tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe on his arm.
“Ay cállate,” Ernesto replied, “don’t be a sore loser.”
“You better put that money back, hijo. That’s my money,” the little man said again.
Ernesto turned on his stool as the man stood up and moved up to him. A second player also rose and shielded himself behind the first, looking over his shoulder. That man hadn’t said a word all evening and Ernesto was surprised to see him whisper something into the short man’s ear. He didn’t notice as that man pulled a six inch knife from his pants and slid it into the hand of the short one.
“Hold on, amigos, that money is …” Ernesto began, but was cut short when the quiet one said audibly, “¡Mátelo!”
And that he did. Two quick thrusts, once in the belly and once in the chest. Ernesto collapsed to the floor and the two men fled.
At the same time that Ernesto Miranda was pronounced dead at the hospital, a Phoenix police officer was chasing one of the suspects down an alley. Not the murderer, but his accomplice. It wasn’t long before he had him secured in the back of his patrol car and was reading to him from a little white rectangular card.
“You have the right to remain silent …”