Five Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court of the United States

Introduction

A case brief is a summary of the proceedings of a given case. In writing a case brief, a writer finds ways of systematically representing the statements and facts of a case but in a short summary. A case brief therefore entails looking at the decisions made, facts of a case, as well as an analysis of the ruling made by the court. In this paper, five landmark cases of the Supreme Court of the United States will be written in brief.

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Miranda v. Arizona: 1966

Case name and citation

This was a case between Miranda and the state of Arizona in which Miranda was the defendant and the Arizona state, the plaintiff. This case was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme court which gave birth to the Miranda rights. It was fully known as Miranda v. State of Arizona; Westover v. United States; Vignera v. State of New York; State of California v. Stewart and cited as 384 U.S. 436 (1966) (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Key Facts of the case

On March, 1963, an abduction and sexual assault case took place, in phoenix, Arizona. Miranda, a 23 years aged man was arrested on March13 in his home where he was taken into police custody, recognized by the injured party and taken into an examination room (Fradella & Neubaeur). After two hours, the interrogators came out of the examination room with a written admission of guilt signed by Miranda, showing that he had “full knowledge of his legal rights, understanding any statement made may be used against him,” (Fradella & Neubaeur), and intentionally disregarded those rights (Fradella & Neubaeur). Miranda was not allowed counsel at a preliminary trial two weeks after his arrest. In his trial, he had a counsel who objected his signed confession but overruled his plea. Miranda was convicted for sexual assault and kidnapping and sentenced for 20 years (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Legal Issue(s) Presented before Court

The first legal issue was on whether the confession document signed by the defendant was an admissible document given that the rights in 5th and 6th amendment had been violated. Additionally, there was no prior notice against self-incrimination and he was not provided with a counsel. There was a burden of proof on whether the defendant voluntarily waived his rights (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Holding of the Court

The court overturned the conviction by a 5-4 margin and declared that the burden of proof be rested on the state. It therefore led to the creation of Miranda Warnings that require the police to advice the suspects on their rights (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Court’s Rationale or Reasoning for its Decision

The court’s decision to overturn the conviction was fair as the person in custody had not been duly informed of his rights to remain silent, and that anything he said would be used against him and the right to a lawyer or have one presents him during interrogation. In my opinion, I think the judgment was fair as the defendant’s rights had been infringed upon.

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Gideon v. Wainwright: 1963

Case name and citation

This was a Supreme Court case between Gideon and Wainwright; where Clarence Earl Gideon was found guilty of a felony in a Florida court. The case is numbered 155 (McBride).

Key Facts of the case

Gideon defended himself after showing up without money or a lawyer following the court’s failure to grant him a free counsel on the basis that counsel is only granted in the case of capital offences (McBride). He was therefore forced to go about his own defense and obviously lost the case thus being sentenced to imprisonment for a criminal offence. ‘Later on, he applied for a writ of habeas corpus, to the Supreme Court citing that his conviction desecrated his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution” (McBride).He was denied all relief.

Legal Issue(s) Presented before Court

The question was, whether the law provided a type of offense as it was supposed to be granted free counsel; capital or non-capital. There was also the issue of illiteracy, stupidity, poverty or complicated as well as other factors to be considered, which the Fourteenth Amendment did not specify (McBride).

Holding of the Court

The right of a needy defendant in an illegal trial to obtain the support of counsel is a basic right critical to a fair trial and supplicant’s trial. The judgment with no help of counsel breached the Fourteenth Amendment “Betts v. Brady, 3I6 U.S. 455 overruled” (McBride). The Sixth Amendment necessitates states to grant defense lawyers to every indigent criminal defendant accused of felony (McBride).

Court’s Rationale or Reasoning for its Decision

The judgment in this case was unfair as the defendant’s right to a legal counsel was violated on the basis that legal counsel was only given in the case of a capital offence whereas in the constitution it states clearly that legal counsel is offered by the state to persons who cannot afford legal representation regardless of their crime being capital or non-capital.

Brown v. Mississippi

This is a Supreme Court case that ruled that confessions made by the defendant extorted through violence by the police cannot qualify as evidence and breaches “Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was cited as 297 U.S. 278 (1936)” (Find Law).

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Key Facts of the case

“A white planter, Raymond Stewart was murdered on March 30, 1934. Three black occupant farmers Arthur Ellington, Ed Brown and Henry Shields, were indicted for the murder later on April 4 and pleaded not guilty” (Find Law).The principal evidence in this case was the defendants’ self-confessions. The court appointed the counsel for their defense and pleaded not guilty. The following morning at the trial they were convicted and sentenced to death. During the Supreme Court trial, they asserted that they had given the confessions under coercion and torture while actually one of them was whipped and wrung his neck over a tree (Find Law).

Legal Issue(s) Presented before Court

There was the issue of Violation of Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S Federal Constitution as a result of the forced confessions under violence and whether such confessions were legal. There was also a question of “suggestion of error” as a result of contended refutation of representation. Fifth Amendment protects people from self-incrimination even through torture (Find Law).

Holding of the Court

The suggestion of error and the federal question were against the defendants’ arguments. Two judges disputed a writ of certiorari which was granted. “The ruling was reversed because confession extracted through police violence breaches Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” (Find Law).

Court’s Rationale or Reasoning for its Decision

The decision of the court on the basis of having the defendants be killed by hanging can be termed as not fair. This is due to the fact that the defendant’s confession was obtained via the use of violence thus violating the Due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Mapp v. Ohio: 1961

This was a landmark case in criminal procedure in which the Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” might fail to be used in state or federal courts. It was cited as 367 U.S 643(Fradella & Neubaeur).

Key Facts of the case

Police officers in Cleveland, Ohio got information that a suspect in a bombing incident, plus several illegal gambling equipment, could be set up at Dollree Mapp’s home, on May 23, 1957. The officers asked to be permitted to search the house without a permit but Mapp did not allow them (Fradella & Neubaeur). Two officers left, while one remained. After 3 hours, they came back with more officers, flaunted a piece of paper and broke in. When Mapp asked for the warrant, and snatched it from an officer then put it in her dress, they removed it and handcuffed her for being “belligerent” (Fradella & Neubaeur).They found neither of those things except for a pornographic material stashed in a suitcase. She claimed it was not hers, but was arrested, prosecuted and found guilty of having pornographic material.

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Legal Issue(s) Presented before Court

The question of the 4th amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” and the “nationalization” of the Bill of Rights under the 14th Amendment arose. Was the house search lawful and evidence permissible in state law and criminal procedure (Fradella & Neubaeur)? If the materials were not illegally acquired Mapp should have been protected by the 4thamendment (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Holding of the Court

The court reversed the judgment in a 6-3 decision; with five of them establishing that states should rule out evidence held in violation of the 4th Amendment as a violation of the constitution (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Court’s Rationale or Reasoning for its Decision

The Supreme Court of the United States decision to overturn Mapp’s conviction was a fair decision as the Fourth Amendment protects Individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures and it is not clear on how the government might use any findings of an illegal search therefore the evidence obtained from Mapp’s house could not be used as evidence to prosecute her as it was gathered illegally.

Furman v. Georgia: 1972

This was a Supreme Court ruling that ruled on imposition and execution of death penalty. Various cases were held to make up cruel and bizarre retribution in contravention of Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. It was numbered 408 U.S.238 (1972) (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Key Facts of the case

The victim woke up to find Furman in his house and as he was escaping, he jaunted and the weapon he was carrying fired up unintentionally, slaying the victim. The evidence contradicted his earlier statement that he blindly turned and fired a gunshot while escaping. Based on his evidence he was found guilty and sentenced to death; though the penalty never took place (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Legal Issue(s) Presented before Court

Death penalty or death sentence form a part of the cruel and unusual punishments against the 8th and 14th amendments of the constitution (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Holding of the Court

The court was for the opinion that imposition of death penalty in such cases formed part of cruel and unusual punishment thus contravening the constitution. However, each judge came up with their own dissent or consensus and none could martial more than three counterparts (Fradella & Neubaeur). Justice Brennan and Marshall agreed that death was unconstitutional. This remained subject of controversy until the decision of Greggy vs. Georgia (Fradella & Neubaeur).

Court’s Rationale or Reasoning for its Decision

Judging from his conflicting evidence he was guilty. The death penalty was a fair judgment but its nature violates the constitutional requirements under cruel and unusual punishments. I would recommend the he would have been given an alternative sentence such as life imprisonment

Works Cited

Find Law. U.S. Supreme Court: Brown V. State of Mississippi, 297 U.S. 278. (1936) 2011. Web.

Fradella, Henry & Neubaeur, David. American courts and the criminal justice system. (2010) Wadsworth Publishing.

McBride, Alex. The Supreme Court, landmark cases Gideon v. Wainwright. (1963), Web.

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Paperroni. (2022, March 29). Five Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved from https://paperroni.com/five-landmark-cases-of-the-supreme-court-of-the-united-states/

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Paperroni. (2022) 'Five Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court of the United States'. 29 March.

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