Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Accolades

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

I suspect that most story-behind-the-court-case books get their start when a landmark decision inspires a legal scholar to get to the root of a case, investigate the plaintiff ’s or defendant’s story, and chart the rocky path through the judicial system of whatever point of law is at issue. Such books are compelling because people are naturally ...

Dramatis Personae

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pp. xv-xx

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Prologue: “The Best of Spirits Prevailed”

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pp. 1-2

It was two days before Chinese New Year, 1919, and the three men who made up the Chinese Educational Mission in Washington dc were all out for dinner.
Ringing in the Year of the Goat was a welcome break from the work of the mission, which had been established in 1911 to look after the hundreds of Chinese scholarship students studying at universities across the United States. ...

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1. Three Men in a Tub

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pp. 3-5

The SS Empress of Russia had established herself as the Queen of the Pacific on her maiden voyage from Yokohama to Vancouver in 1913. Despite dense fog, blustery winds, and choppy seas, the nearly 600-foot British-built steamer made the journey in just nine days and five hours, shaving a full day off the previous record. ...

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2. An Unwelcome Guest

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pp. 6-20

Approximately 350 government-funded Chinese students were studying in the United States when Dr. Wong and Ben Sen Wu arrived in Washington in 1916. They were attending some of America’s best schools, including Cornell, MIT, Columbia, the University of Michigan, Harvard, George Washington, and the University ...

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3. Murder at the Mission

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pp. 21-31

Tsu-Li Sun, an attaché at the Chinese Legation on Nineteenth Street, was studying at George Washington University together with Hsie and Wu; all three were enrolled in a course on banking. He hadn’t seen either man since Tuesday, however, which was odd. So late in the afternoon of Friday the 31st, as he was passing the mission ...

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4. Incommunicado

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pp. 32-39

Although the police were not about to permit Wan to leave town, they did offer to take him to a hospital. But he balked at the idea. So Detective Grant decided to bring him to a local hotel instead. Finally, near midnight, without being observed, they checked their exhausted detainee into a room on the second floor of the Dewey Hotel. ...

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5. Interrogation

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pp. 40-48

The newspapers eventually figured out Wan’s location but, at the request of the authorities, did not publish the name of the hotel. The police wanted the freedom to examine Wan without interruption, the Washington Times explained. And by midweek, the detectives had begun to feel confident that they were within reach of solving the case, despite the fact that the evidence was still largely circumstantial. ...

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6. Confession

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pp. 49-56

The steel cells of the stately Tenth Precinct Station House at 750 Park Road NW had failed to contain Harry Houdini, who famously escaped incarceration there in a 1909 stunt. Stripped naked, the great escape artist had freed himself from a set of handcuffs, defeated the five locks that secured his cell, and opened those of an adjacent chamber that held his clothing— ...

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7. Indictment and Trial

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pp. 57-72

About 300 prisoners were in residence in the District jail when Wan and Van arrived, though the population was quite fluid. Nearly 6,000 people passed through its doors that year, but most were soon discharged or transferred. The majority were black; eighty-five percent were male. Nearly a third had been locked up for intoxication ...

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8. Appeal

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pp. 73-81

On his return Wan was transferred to one of four double cells in the southeast section of the jailhouse known colloquially as “gallows lane.” This was where inmates awaiting execution were housed. His conviction brought their number to five, a new record for the jail. He was assigned the second bed in a cell occupied by forty-six-year-old Charles Ross Webster, ...

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9. The Third Degree

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pp. 82-90

The U.S. Supreme Court had addressed the admissibility of confessions in a federal court in 1897 in the Bram case. It had ruled that the appropriate test was whether any promises or threats had been made by law enforcement officers or any other actions had induced the confession to the point that it could not be considered voluntary. ...

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10. The Supreme Court

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pp. 91-108

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, which had plowed in so completely behind the trial court judge, was not supportive of a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 27, Judge Van Orsdel denied O’Shea a writ of error, which essentially meant he was satisfied that all outstanding issues had been resolved, and declined to ...

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11. Retrial

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pp. 109-125

In much of the press coverage that followed the Supreme Court decision, attorney John W. Davis was lauded as Wan’s savior. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran an article under the headline, “Davis Intervention Saves a Chinese.” And the New York Times gushed at how Davis, even on a European trip during which he was entertained ...

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12. Freedom

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pp. 126-132

Within a day of Wan’s release, some “friends of Wan” began talking about incorporating the lessons of his case into a broader national discussion of problems in the criminal justice system. “No remedial action or redress is sought on Wan’s behalf,” the Evening Star asserted, without identifying any of these friends. “What is desired is to make ...

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13. The Wickersham Report

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pp. 133-143

Even after Wan’s release and his return to China, his case continued to have staying power. In 1929 a president’s commission saw to it that it once again received national attention as a damning example of police misconduct.
President Calvin Coolidge’s 1925 National Crime Commission had not accomplished much and the perception that crime was ...

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14. The Road to Miranda

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pp. 144-152

In its ruling in the case of Ziang Sung Wan v. United States, the Supreme Court had broken new ground in American criminal justice, reaffirming the principle first stated in Bram v. United States that the Fifth Amendment permitted only voluntary confessions to be admitted as evidence in federal proceedings. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 153-164

So who killed Theodore Wong and his colleagues?
Not the police, the prosecutors, the Justice Department, nor any of the courts that considered the case against Ziang Sung Wan ever conclusively answered the question of who actually killed the three Chinese diplomats. ...

Chronology

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pp. 165-172

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 173-174

First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge my debt to two brilliant young attorneys who were invaluable in helping this non-lawyer understand not only the ins and outs and implications of the case of Ziang Sung Wan v. United States, but where it fit into the progression of Supreme Court cases governing criminal confessions and ...

Notes

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pp. 175-190

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 191-194

Index

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pp. 195-201