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Brown v. Mississippi
[297 U.S. 278]
Hughes Court,  Decided 9-0,  2/17/1936


Chief Justice Charles Evans HughesThis was a brutal case that not only had racial overtones, but begins to show why the Miranda decision, taken thirty years later, was seen as necessary for the protection of the accused.

Three black Mississippi tenant farmers had been accused of murdering a white plantation owner. At their trial, during which the primary prosecution evidence was the defendants' own confessions, the government openly stated that the admissions were only gained after the defendants had been severely whipped by their captors.

Nonetheless the confessions were admitted, the three men convicted, and sentence of death passed. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the convictions.

Paradoxically, the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by none other than former Mississippi governor Earl Leroy Brewer, supported by funding from the NAACP and others. The Court had little difficulty unanimously deciding to overturn the convictions under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

What is surprising now, though perhaps not at that time, was that the Court took the opportunity to reaffirm that the Fifth Amendment Self-Incrimination clause did not apply to the states. The moment of this case was about halfway into the Supreme Court's efforts this century to interpret the Fourteenth Amendment as applying the entire Bill of Rights to the states, but it had not yet reached that decision on the Fifth.

While Common Sense Americans eschew the often frivolous and expansive interpretations recently applied to the Fourteenth, especially as they deal with the regulation of non-governmental bodies and undertakings, it has always made common sense that the amendment's Privileges and Immunities clause was intended to extend the constitutionally stated rights of U.S. citizens to the states and, possibly by extension, to lower governments. The difficulty in this common sense approach is that it was demonstrably not in the minds of the framers of the Fourteenth and, therefore, not proper constitutionalism.

Certainly no true American can imagine that confessions extracted through torture, and convictions based thereupon, have anything to do with Americanism or the intentions of the Framers.


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Other decisions pertaining to Due Process:

Allgeyer v. Louisiana    [165 U.S. 578 (1897)]  Fuller Court
Batson v. Kentucky    [476 U.S. 79 (1986)]  Burger Court
Betts v. Brady    [316 U.S. 455 (1942)]  Stone Court
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Co. v. Minnesota    [134 U.S. 418 (1890)]  Fuller Court
Connelly v. General Construction Co.    [269 U.S. 385 (1905)]  Taft Court
Estes v. Texas    [381 U.S. 532 (1905)]  Warren Court
Muller v. Oregon    [208 U.S. 412 (1908)]  Fuller Court
Tinker v. Des Moines    [393 U.S. 503 (1969)]  Warren Court

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