Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner, Williams, appealed from an action denying him relief from a Florida statute which required he divulge information regarding his alibi prior to trial, on the grounds that it was testimony in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Information requested in pretrial discovery is not considered testimony under the Fifth Amendment.
If it is clear from the petitioner's response to the show cause order that he or she is represented by counsel in the proceeding below and is not seeking to discharge counsel in that proceeding, then the petition in this Court will be dismissed as unauthorized.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a defendant can refuse to participate in pre-trial discovery, construing it as testimony under the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against self-incrimination.
Held. Pre-Trial discovery is not testimony in the sense of the Fifth Amendment, and a defendant must participate if he intends to use evidence that is to be discovered at trial.
Dissent. Justice Black, for the dissent, argues that by requiring a defendant to plead “alibi” before the trial of a case forces him to give the prosecution an unfair advantage.
Concurrence. Justice Burger concurs, noting that an alibi discovery rule could allow the prosecution to dispense with a case before trial, should the alibi be credible enough.
Discussion. Pre-trial discovery, while considered as testimony in the context of a deposition, is not testimonial insofar as divulging required information.