HIS STORY: Ernesto Miranda was in his Phoenix home in 1963 when police came, arrested him and took him to a police station. There, a witness identified the truck driver as the culprit in a kidnapping and rape. So did Miranda himself, in writing -- a confession that was taken into account during his trial, which ended with a guilty verdict.
Miranda challenged that conviction by insisting his confession was invalid. Why? Because, he argued, he had made it without being advised by police of his right to remain silent and to have a lawyer working with him.
The Supreme Court got Miranda's case (among others involving suspects alleging they hadn't been properly about self-incrimination prior to being interrogated), and ruled in his favor. Thus was born what's now known as a Miranda warning, in which suspects are told they don't have to talk to police and have the right to an attorney, whether they can afford one or not.
Miranda's victory, though, was short-lived. He was retried, and once again convicted, in 1967. After getting out after two stints in jail, he was stabbed to death in January 1976 in a fight over a $3 gambling pot.
WHO: Mildred and Richard Loving
CASE NAME: Loving v. Virginia (1967)
THEIR STORY: In many ways, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving were like any other couple. They'd been childhood sweethearts who tied the knot in 1958 in Washington, D.C., then went back to their home state of Virginia. But their wedded bliss was interrupted one night when police broke into their bedroom and arrested them. Their crime? Mildred was black and Richard was white, at a time when interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and other states.
The Lovings got out of a pending jail sentence after agreeing to move to Washington. Yet they pressed their case that their marriage, and those of other mixed-race couples, should be valid in the United States. In a 1967 decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren agreed, thus opening the door for all interracial marriages.
"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival," he wrote, citing an earlier case. "To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law."
WHO: Norma Leah McCorvey, aka "Jane Roe"
CASE: Roe v. Wade (1973)
HER STORY: McCorvey was 21, unmarried and on her third pregnancy when she, in the court's eyes, became Jane Roe. In a 1980 autobiography in which she revealed her identity, the young Texan described having a tough life up until then -- including having endured sexual, physical and emotional abuse, a failed marriage and problems with drugs and alcohol.
She was still anonymous in 1973 when Associate Justice Harry Blackmum wrote the majority opinion that legalized a woman's right to an abortion in all 50 states. His reasoning was this falls under a woman's constitutionally granted right of privacy.
Ironically, McCorvey didn't have an abortion. And she later switched sides in the heated debate and became a passionate anti-abortion activist.
WHO: Edith Windsor
CASE: United States v. Windsor (2013)
HER STORY: Edith Windsor met her soulmate, Thea Spyer, in New York's Greenwich Village. They reunited two years later, and soon thereafter Spyer proposed marriage with a round diamond pin. But actually following through seemed out of the question, given that lesbian couples could not legally marry then in the United States.
The couple were together 42 years, marrying in 2007 in Toronto. Two years later, Windsor mourned Spyer's death and realized she faced a hefty bill for inheritance taxes because Spyer was, in legal terms, little more than a friend. She sued, arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government from recognizing her marriage as valid was unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, she won. It meant she's now owed back those inheritance taxes but, more significantly, that gay and lesbians around the country can now get "the same federal benefits, protections and dignity as everyone else." "If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it," she told reporters. "And she would be so pleased."
Sources: National Archives and Records Administration; Street Law, Inc. in a project funded by the Supreme Court Historical Society; National Park Service; Missouri State Archives; Library of Congress; U.S. Department of State; Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; Arizona State Archives; American Civil Liberties Union