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Citation. 22 Ill.425 U.S. 501, 96 S. Ct. 1691, 48 L. Ed. 2d 126 (1976)
Brief Fact Summary. An individual murdered his ex-landlord with a knife. While awaiting trial in jail, he asked an officer for his civilian clothing, but instead was required to wear his prison issued clothing during trial.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. “[A]lthough the State cannot, consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment, compel an accused to stand trial before a jury while dressed in identifiable prison clothes, the failure to make an objection to the court as to being tried in such clothes, for whatever reason, is sufficient to negate the presence of compulsion necessary to establish a constitutional violation.”ť
The Respondent, Williams (the “Respondent”ť), was convicted in state court for assault with intent to commit murder with malice. The Respondent went back to an apartment complex he used to live in and got into an altercation with his ex-landlord. The Respondent eventually stabbed the landlord.
The Respondent could not post bond and he was held in custody while awaiting trial. After he learned he was to go on trial, the Respondent asked an officer for his civilian clothes. This request was denied. As such, the Respondent appeared at trial with prison issued clothing. No objection was raised at trial
The Respondent was found guilty and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction. The Respondent then sought release in the United States District Court on a petition for a writ of habeus corpus. The District Court held that it was harmless error to force plaintiff to wear prison issued clothing. The Fifth Circuit found it was not harmless error. Issue.
“[W]hether an accused who is compelled to wear identifiable prison clothing at his trial by a jury is denied due process or equal protection of the laws?”ť