On October 31, 1963, Veteran Cleveland Police Detective Martin J. McFadden, dressed in plain clothes, was walking his regular beat when he became suspicious of three men whom he thought might be “casing a job, a stick-up.” He testified that he considered it his duty as a police officer to investigate further, so he approached the men, identifying himself as a police officer and asking for their names.
When he received only a mumbled response in return, he grabbed one of the men (John W. Terry), spun him around, and patted down his overcoat, finding a gun. After also finding a gun on a second man (Richard D. Chilton), McFadden took them and the third man (Carl Katz) down to police headquarters, eventually charging Terry and Chilton with carrying concealed weapons.
Before Judge Bernard Friedman in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, defense attorney and future Congressman Louis Stokes, moved to suppress the weapons. Friedman denied the motion, holding that while McFadden did not have probable cause at the outset, he was entitled to briefly stop and frisk the men based on his reasonable cause to believe they were engaged in suspicious activity. Stokes appealed the case to the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court. Both courts affirmed, and the Supreme Court announced a new legal standard: police may “stop and frisk” a suspect whom the officer reasonably suspects may be armed and dangerous.
This landmark case has many connections to CSU College of Law. Congressman Stokes and prosecutor Reuben M. Payne, who argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, were both 1953 graduates of the law school. Two of the judges who heard the appeal for Cuyahoga County’s Eighth District Court of Appeals, Samuel H. Silbert (Class of 1907) and Joseph A. Artl (Class of 1923) were graduates of Cleveland Law School (Cleveland Law School and John Marshall School of Law merged in 1946 to become Cleveland-Marshall Law School). A third judge, James Joseph Patrick Corrigan, taught at Cleveland-Marshall Law School, as did Judge Silbert.
Browse the Terry v. Ohio Collection
- Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
- Eighth Judicial District of Ohio, Court of Appeals, Cuyahoga County
- Ohio Supreme Court
- United States Supreme Court