Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner appealed after being convicted when the trial judge gave a jury instruction that failure to testify should be construed against him.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The fifth Amendment, as incorporated against the states in the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids comment on the accused’s silence as evidence of guilt.
Facts. Petitioner was convicted of First Degree Murder. He chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment Privilege against self incrimination and remained silent throughout the trial. At the closing of trial, the court instructed the jury that it may infer that the defendant’s silence was a probable indication of guilt. The death penalty was imposed, and it was upheld by the California Supreme Court. Under a writ of certiorari, the United States’ Supreme Court decided to take the case at hand.
Issue. Whether a jury instruction on the accused’s silence is reversible error.