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Ideas

The 1919 Murder Case That Gave Americans the Right to Remain Silent

Decades Before the Supreme Court's Miranda Decision, a Washington Triple Slaying Paved the Way to Protect Criminal Suspects

By Scott D. Seligman
April 30, 2018

If you’ve ever watched an American television crime drama, you probably can recite a suspect’s rights along with the arresting officers. Those requirements—that prisoners must be informed that they may remain silent, and that they have the right to an attorney—are associated in the public mind with Ernesto Miranda, convicted in Arizona of kidnapping and rape in 1963.

But the “Miranda rights” routinely read to suspects as a result of the 1966 Supreme Court decision that overturned his conviction have their …

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Ideas

The Chief Justice Who Elevated the Supreme Court Into a Co-Equal Branch of Government

Before John Marshall, the Court Had Been a Constitutional Afterthought

By Joel Richard Paul
March 19, 2018

No one in the founding generation left a more lasting imprint on American government and law than Chief Justice John Marshall.

We remember Washington’s leadership, Jefferson’s eloquence, and Franklin’s wit, but Marshall breathed life into the Constitution, elevated the judiciary, and defended the federal government’s power over feuding states. The power of judicial review and the corresponding principle that courts should not interfere with political judgments are just two of the many doctrines that Marshall wove into our constitution.

How …

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Ideas

How Alexander Hamilton Fought the Tyranny of the Majority

By Shielding British Loyalists From Persecution, the Founder Elevated Principles Over Prejudice

By Kate Elizabeth Brown
March 15, 2018

The struggles of America’s cultural outsiders to be included in the country—in the face of disparagement, exclusion, or punishment—are as old as the nation. And, as Alexander Hamilton discovered in the 1770s and 1780s, they cut to the core of what it means to be American.

Before Hamilton reached his political apotheosis in George Washington’s cabinet, he immigrated to the mainland North American colonies from Nevis, an island in the British West Indies. Like his contemporaries Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton …

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Ideas

Why Do Americans Put Pets, Not Their Owners, on Trial?

The Bizarre History Behind Our Current Canine Legal System Is Full of Rats, Pigs, and Moles

By David Grimm
July 12, 2016

When a Japanese Akita named Taro bit the lip of a 10-year-old New Jersey girl in 1991, police seized the dog and a judge ordered him destroyed. Taro’s owners appealed to a higher court, while the canine, incarcerated at a county sheriff’s office, awaited execution. Newspapers dubbed him the “death row dog.”

A few years later, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire judge, in a modern version of excommunication, ordered a Labrador mix named Prince to vacate the city after killing a rooster. …

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