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Furman v. Georgia (1972)

The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional because states imposed it in an arbitrary -- and sometimes racially biased -- manner. The Court also ruled that the death penalty could not be imposed for rape. After this decision, states rewrote their laws to address the Court's concerns, and the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 in the case of Gregg v. Georgia.

In Re Gault (1967)

The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that juvenile criminal defendants are entitled to due process protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Among other things, due process protection includes the right to timely notice of criminal charges, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, the right not to testify against oneself, and the right to counsel (representation by a lawyer).

School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp (1963)

The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that laws requiring religious activity in public schools -- including Bible readings and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer -- violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Roth v. United States (1957)

The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court defined obscenity as that which "appeals to the prurient interest," and not merely as sexual material. The Court ruled that obscenity has no redeeming social importance and therefore is not entitled to First Amendment free speech protection. The Court also ruled that contemporary community standards should be used to judge whether something is obscene.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Definition

The Supreme Court case that held that the Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus. 

Overview

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Definition:

The Supreme Court case, since overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which upheld the constitutionality of “separate, but equal facilities” based on race.

Overview:

Louisiana had adopted a law in 1890 that required railroad companies to provide racially segregated accommodations. In 1892, the state of Louisiana prosecuted Plessy, a man who was 7/8 Caucasian and 1/8 Black, for refusing to leave a passenger car designated for whites.

Keywords: 

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

The Supreme Court held that the custodial interrogation of an individual must be accompanied by an instruction that the person has the right to remain silent, any statements made can be used against the person, and that the individual has the right to counsel, either retained or appointed; absent these safeguards, statements made in this context will be inadmissible in court.  (Read the opinion here.)

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