A woman who became famous in the annals of criminal constitutional history as the defendant in the famous Mapp v. Ohio case died about six weeks ago in Convers, Georgia. Dollree Mapp was 91. At a time when the 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution seemed to only apply to federal prosecutions, state police in Ohio were for looking for information relating to a bombing which had occurred at the home of Don King, who would later become a legendary boxing promoter. Police arrived at Mapp’s two-family-dwelling on May 23rd, 1957 and banged on her door. When Ms. Mapp responded to their presence, the police informed her of the purpose of the visit and requested entrance. Mapp told them they could not enter her residence without a warrant. The police left but came back a few hours later, in force- over ten officers were present. Mapp, who had previously spoken with her lawyer, again demanded that they produce a warrant. The police then forced their entry, and at one point, grabbed and twisted Mapp’s wrist causing pain and otherwise “ran roughshod” over her according to Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 463 (1961). Police commenced a search of the home while Mapp was handcuffed, and forcibly took her upstairs as they went through dressers, chests, and suitcases- including items in her daughter’s room. Although the police found no evidence relating to a bombing, the purported reason for the search, they did seize “obscene” materials (see, “Obscenity- “I Know It When I See It”– sopusa.net) and Mapp was ultimately prosecuted and convicted of this crime. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the legality of the search citing the latest ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that the 4th amendment ban against unreasonable search and seizures did not apply to state court prosecutions. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the 4th amendment was applicable and that the 14th amendment’s guarantee of the right to due process of law, extended to state cases as well. Mapp’s conviction was reversed. The subject is frequently referred to as the “Exclusionary Rule,” and some believe Ms. Mapp’s case started a due process revolution.
Dollree Mapp was an attractive albeit feisty woman having been married or engaged to two professional boxers- one of which she sued for breaking his promise to marry her. It was alleged that she was no stranger to the criminal milieu and not afraid to express her opinion on many matters. Although her case has had an enormous impact on the criminal justice system, her name is not synonymous with such break-through cases as Ernesto Miranda (right to be informed of constitutional rights), John Terry (right to free from specific stop and frisk cases), and Clarence Gideon (right to assistance of counsel). But her case is every bit as important to the citizens of this country.