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By the middle of the 20th century, police interrogation of criminal suspects had developed into a fine art designed to extract confessions. The use of the “third degree,” otherwise known as the infliction of physical or mental suffering, was not uncommon. “[T]he most frequently utilized interrogation techniques have involved mental and psychological stratagems—trickery, deceit, deception, cajolery, subterfuge, chicanery, wheedling, false pretenses of sympathy, and various other artifices and ploys.” As the United States Supreme Court noted in its famous Miranda v. Arizona decision, this type of police interrogation involved “inherent compulsion,” was “inherently coercive,” “exact[ed] a heavy toll on individual liberty and trad[ed] on the weakness of individuals.” In sum, police interrogation tactics in and before the 1950s were contrary to the fundamental principles of fairness and justice set forth in the Constitution. In People v. Crooker, Justice Carter was the lone dissenter with an unpopular position: reverse the criminal conviction of a self-confessed murderer. Why did Justice Carter dissent? For the now recognized principles that a criminal suspect is entitled to an attorney during custodial interrogation, and if he or she requests counsel, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present.


Chapter 3 in “The Great Dissents of the 'Lone Dissenter': Justice Jesse W. Carter's Twenty Tumultuous Years on the California Supreme Court,” Oppenheimer, David & Allan Brotsky, eds. (Carolina Academic Press, 2010). Posted with permission from Carolina Academic Press. All rights reserved.