Anyone who has ever seen an episode of Law and Order or almost any crime drama on American television can probably recite a suspect's “Miranda rights” by heart. You know - the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc. But what most people don’t know is that these rights had their roots in the compelling case of a young Chinese man accused of murdering three of his countrymen in Washington, DC in 1919.

The nation's capital had never seen anything quite like it: three foreign diplomats with no known enemies assassinated in the city's tony Kalorama neighborhood, and no obvious motive or leads. The Washington police were baffled. But once they zeroed in on a suspect, they held him incommunicado without formal arrest for more than a week until they had browbeaten him into a confession.

Part murder mystery, part courtroom drama and part landmark legal case, the book tells the forgotten story of a young man’s abuse by the police and his arduous, seven-year journey through the legal system that drew in Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John W. Davis and even J. Edgar Hoover. It culminated in a landmark Supreme Court ruling penned by Justice Louis Brandeis that set the stage for Miranda v. Arizona many years later.

Today, when the treatment of suspects between arrest and trial remains controversial, when bias against immigrants and minorities in law enforcement continues to deny them their rights and when protecting individuals against compulsory self-incrimination is still an uphill battle, this century-old legal spellbinder contains important lessons for our time.

                             © 2018, Scott D. Seligman