Gene Braswell (’70) argues in U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 Miranda rights case

A career highlight for R. Gene Braswell (’70) occurred in 1979, when he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue the case, North Carolina v. Butler. Braswell was appointed by the N.C. Supreme Court to argue for Willie Thomas Butler, a man who had made statements incriminating himself after being read his Miranda rights. After Butler was convicted in the case, he appealed to have those statements removed, claiming that he had not officially waived his right to legal counsel at the time that those statements were made.

The question of whether an official waiver of rights is required was argued before the state court, where they determined that in order to use a defendant’s self-incriminating statements, the defendant must have explicitly waived his right to counsel. The N.C. attorney general appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Braswell was again appointed to argue for Butler in March 1979.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision made by the N.C. Supreme Court ruling against Butler, determining that an official waiver of rights is not necessary if the accused has had his Miranda rights orally recited to him.

Today Braswell, who successfully practiced civil and criminal law in Goldsboro, N.C., for his entire career, is retired from his private practice with Henson P. Barnes, a partnership among seven attorneys.

Another highlight for Braswell was his decision to take a year-long sabbatical.  During that time, he traveled extensively with family and friends beginning with cruising the intracostal waterway on The Slipaway I with his son Ron, who died in 1998, and ending with an Alaskan cruise and cross-country tour of the Midwest. Braswell retired in 2003 and now enjoys spending time with his family: wife, Mickie Rains Braswell; his daughters,  Susan Lambert and Rhonda Coakley; and his four grandchildren, Allen and Carly Lambert and Miller and Rainee Coakley.