Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dolly Mapp

Risqué Reading Material

The risqué materials amounted to a few nude sketches and four books: Affairs of a Troubadour, Little Darlings, London Stage Affairs and Memories of a Hotel Man.

The booklets were blue and bawdy, lewd and naughtyvignettes about various sexual feats that likely would seem quaint today.

After prosecutors had a look, they agreed with Sgt. Delau and his men that the books were obscene under Ohio law.

Mapp said the books and sketches belonged to a former renter, Morris Jones, who had left them behind when he suddenly moved out. She said she had packed up the books and stored them with Jones possessions in a trunk in the basement.

Mapp was not charged in the King bombing. But police brought two unrelated cases against her: a misdemeanor gambling charge, for possession of the betting slips, and a felony obscenity charge for the naughty books.

Dolly Mapp
Dolly Mapp
She was tried and acquitted on the gambling misdemeanor a month after her arrest.

The felony trial for obscenity, where the stakes were much higher, began September 3, 1958, in a Cuyahoga County Court in Cleveland.

Cuyahoga County Courthouse
Cuyahoga County Courthouse

Before the trial, Judge Donald Lybarger made a ruling on evidence that rendered moot the veracity of the search warrant. He said the smutty books and any other evidence seized by Sgt. Delau and his minions could be used against Mapp whether the search warrant was valid or not.

This made for a simple and brief trial.

The prosecution called just two witnesses: Sgt. Delau and Michael Haney, a patrolman. Each said they went to the house looking for Virgil Ogletree and found the obscene materials in Mapps bedroomnot the basementduring their search.

Haney testified that Mapp voluntarily allowed the officers inside her house. Delau contradicted that, saying they broke through a door.

Each said they had a search warrant but were vague about its origin.

In cross-examinations, Defense Attorney Alexander Kearns sought to clarify the details of the search warrant, but Delau said he knew nothing.

Kearns called three defense witnesses: Walter Greene, his law partner who witnessed the search from outside the house, Dolly Mapp, and a woman friend who helped pack away Morris Jones belongings.

The attorney returned to the search warrant in questioning Mapp.

She replied, When they came in I said, Inspector, I want to see the search warrant....He said, Here is the search warrant. He held it back from me, and I remember Mr. Greene told me I should see it and read it, and I told him I wanted to see it. He said, You cant see it. At that I reached over, took the search warrant from his hand and put it down in my bosom...The one that grabbed me said, Im going down after it. I said, No, you are not. He went down anyway.

Judge Donald Lybarger
Judge Donald Lybarger
At testimonys end, Judge Lybarger instructed the jury that Mapp could be convicted of possession of obscene materials no matter where they were found it in her homethe bedroom or a trunk in the basement--if jurors thought she had control over all contents of the house.

The jurors voted to convict.

Middle America in the 1950s was in the midst of a moral panic over changing mores in the country, and much of the hysteria centered on pornography.

It may seem absurd from the viewpoint of the modern worlds Internet-driven porn saturation, but the conviction was considered a very serious offense.

Ohio Reformatory for Women
Ohio Reformatory for Women

Judge Lybarger sentenced Dollree Mapp to serve up to seven years in the Ohio Reformatory for Women.

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