Dollree Mapp, 1923-2014: "The Rosa Parks of the Fourth Amendment"
December 9, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

In 1961, one dogged black woman took a stand against illegal police tactics. Today the fine folks at The Marshall Project profile one very important American you probably know almost nothing about.

Mapp v. Ohio is one of those landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases from the 1960s, predating the Miranda decision by 5 years. It's one of those cases American high school students remember only because the details make teenagers snicker - Mapp was convicted under Ohio's obscenity statute when police found pornography in her house.

“The illegal entry of Mapp's house by the police was nothing extraordinary; it was an everyday fact of life for blacks and other racial minorities." An Ohio jury took just 20 minutes to convict Mapp for possession of four racy novels and one pencil sketch of a nude found during a warrantless search.
posted by deludingmyself (8 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
The 'pornography' she was arrested for were books, written words deemed to be obscene (and a nude sketch). Sentenced by a jury to seven years in prison for those books (20 minutes for the jury to decide).

She sounded like a complete bad-ass, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Good on the supreme court for deciding to rule in her favor because of the 4th amendment, when they could have gone the 1st amendment route.

She was a true American hero!
posted by el io at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mapp is a great case and shows how important it is to have good judges who care about the practical consequences of their decisions. Before Mapp, it was up to states to determine what the remedy for a 4th Amendment violation would be, some states excluded such evidence (as did federal law at the time), but in many states a defendant had to make a civil case out of their 4th amendment violation, which wouldn't necessarily effect any conviction. But since it was and is so hard to win a civil action against a police department, the police ultimately had no incentive to protect 4th amendment rights against anyone who didn't have deep pockets to make life hell in litigation.

Mapp enshrined the exclusionary rule into 4th amendment law at the state level, so the remedy for a 4th amendment violation is exclusion of the evidence (with many exceptions, however). This is so important because state courts are where the vast majority of prosecutions actually take place. Before law school, I had no idea how little the 4th amendment actually protected most people, at least until the Warren-era decisions like Miranda and Mapp. Unlike Miranda, who played an important role in protecting the rights of indigent defendants but was pretty much a scumbag, Mapp was an innocent victim of the police who got in trouble for nothing more than being insufficiently subservient and having the temerity to demand to be treated with respect in her own home. I didn't know about her personal life before this, but she sounds like a great example for Americans today, we should promote her story more.
posted by skewed at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

She sounds like a real pistol. Imagine what her life would have been like if she'd had access to all the privileges of class and race denied her. She might have ended up on the Supreme Court herself, or as a CEO, or almost anything. It's hard to imagine her having a quiet life.
posted by emjaybee at 12:36 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dunno, that's really a nature v nurture question. She might have ended up president of the DAR, and author of a book on collectible china.

100% glad she was who she was, then and there. Salute!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Whoa. There's a surprise cameo in this story by Don King (yes, that Don King).
posted by mhum at 12:52 PM on December 9, 2014

Great story, thanks for posting it.
posted by languagehat at 2:57 PM on December 9, 2014

I loved the photos in this (as well as the story).
posted by sallybrown at 6:39 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I loved the photos in this (as well as the story).

Me too. Her mugshot, and the one goofing around in the fur coat and hat... they definitely did a great job capturing her personality as well as her story for this.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:48 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

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