Monday, May 19, 2014

Case Brief: Adamson v. California

Adamson v. California (The 14th AM’s DPC did not extend to Ds a 5th Am. right not to bear witness against themselves in state courts)
Background: A man named Admiral Dewey Adamson was charged with first-degree murder but chose not to testify on his own behalf because he knew the prosecutor would impeach him with questions about his prior criminal record. The prosecutor then argued that this refusal to testify could be seen as an admission of guilt under a CA statute that allowed the jury to infer guilt in such cases. On appeal, however, Adamson's attorney Morris Lavine argued that Adamson's freedom against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment had been violated. He argued that because the prosecutor had drawn attention to Adamson’s refusal to testify, Adamson’s freedom against self-incrimination had been violated.
Holding (Majority):While Adamson’s rights may have been violated had the case been tried in federal court, the rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment did not extend to state courts based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. "It is settled law that the clause of the Fifth Amendment, protecting a person against being compelled to be a witness against himself, is not made effective by the Fourteenth Amendment as a protection against state action on the ground that freedom from testimonial compulsion is a right of national citizenship...." Reed based the Court's decision, in part, on the Court's 1937 decision in Palko v. Connecticut, where the Court found that the Fifth Amendment's protection against double jeopardy did not apply to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment and the Court's 1908 decision earlier in Twining v. New Jersey.

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