The Supreme Court: Dooming the Dragnet

After an 86-year-old white woman was raped in Meridian, Miss., in 1965. she could say only that her assailant was a Negro youth. During the next ten days, Meridian police resorted to the "dragnet" technique—stopping and questioning nearly 75 young Negroes at random. Many were fingerprinted, questioned and released. The Fourth Amendment bars any search or seizure without probable cause. But as it turned out, the fingerprints of one of the Negroes, John Davis, then 14, matched a set found on the windowsill of the victim's home. He was tried and subsequently convicted.

Last week, by a vote of six to...

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