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College to Celebrate Constitution Day on Sept. 17

Published Friday, September 11th, 2015

Faculty member Dr. Mark Leeper will host a talk on Sept. 17 to commemorate Constitution Day.

Wayne State College will mark Constitution Day, observed annually across the nation to commemorate the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, with a talk by faculty member Dr. Mark Leeper at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in Gardner Auditorium. 

"You Had the Right to Remain Silent: Recent Criminal Cases and the Roberts Court” is sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta, the college’s history honor society. The event is free and open to the public.

Professor Leeper’s talk will look at Supreme Court decisions relating to the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The court is led by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“The presentation will focus on the significant Roberts Court decisions over the past five years regarding criminal rights, most notably Supreme Court justices’ application of Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights,” Leeper said. “Whereas most of us obey the law and won't need to invoke these protections in our daily lives, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments stand as strong and lasting statements by the framers of the Constitution: As a society, we value the privacy and dignity of the individual more than aggressive and sometimes over-bearing law enforcement.”

“The impact of the Roberts Court on these freedoms is mixed,” Leeper continued. “Led by Justices Kennedy and Alito, the Supreme Court has significantly rolled back the infamous Miranda right ‘to remain silent.’ The recent Fourth Amendment case law is decidedly mixed; Justices Roberts and Kennedy have authored opinions strengthening the ability of law enforcement to detain and search suspects without suspicion, but Justices Scalia, Ginsberg, and Sotomayor remain active in shielding the home, cars, and the individuals within from ‘unreasonable’ searches.”

Leeper said he chose the topic because the Fourth and Fifth Amendments always generate interesting stories and tough questions.

“Is running at the sight of an officer ‘reasonable suspicion’ to detain and search?” Leeper asked. “Can a drug dog be brought to your front porch without a warrant? If you are stopped for going 58 in a 55, can you be detained until a second unit arrives with a drug dog for a sweep? Can the police look through your cell phone if you are in custody? Can the police swab your cheek and enter the data into a national unsolved crime database if you are under arrest for an unrelated misdemeanor? Can the police run a suspect off the road if they refuse to stop for speeding? Do you have to tell police your name if you have committed no crime? If you sit and remain silent for two hours under intense police interrogation, have you in fact invoked your Fifth Amendment rights? Can the police induce a confession without a Miranda warning ‘informally,’ and then take you to the station and read you your rights and ask you to repeat your confession, legally?”

There will be time for a question-and-answer session after Leeper’s talk regarding these and any subjects of interest to those who attend - religious freedoms (Kim Davis), Second Amendment gun rights, freedom of speech on a college campus, the constitutionality of lethal injection, and the death penalty.

“Generally - all questions are welcome,” Leeper said. “The Constitution is an expression of our fundamental values manifested in powers granted to government and rights and freedoms granted to citizens. These values are going to conflict, quite naturally, and the resolution of these highly charged and fascinating issues fall to the nine members of the United States Supreme Court.”