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Adamson v. California

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Brief Fact Summary.

Adamson was charged with murder, but chose not to testify. Acting under a California statute, the prosecutor instructed the jury that they could infer guilt. Adamson argued the California statute was unconstitutional.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is not applicable to the states by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

A trial by jury in suits at common law pending in the State courts is not a privilege or immunity of national citizenship which the States are forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States to abridge.

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Facts.

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 refusal to testify could be seen as an admission of guilt under a California statute that allowed the jury to infer guilt in such cases.

Issue.

Is the FIfth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus applicable to the states?

Held.

No, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is not applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

Dissent.

The original purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to extend to all the people of the nation the complete protection of the Bill of Rights.

Discussion.

While Adamson’s rights may have been violated had the case been tried in federal court, the rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment do not extend to state courts based on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Per Twining v. New Jersey (1908), which explicitly denied the application of the due process clause to the right against self-incrimination, and Palko v. Connecticut (1937), the Fourteenth Amendment does not extend carte blanche all of the immunities and privileges of the first ten amendments to individuals at the state level.


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