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Griffin v. California


    Citation. Griffin v. California, 1964 U.S. LEXIS 896, 377 U.S. 989, 84 S. Ct. 1926, 12 L. Ed. 2d 1043 (U.S. 1964)

    Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. He was seen with the victim on the night of the crime and in the alley with her where her body was discovered.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Fifth Amendment allows a defendant to not testify to prevent self-incrimination.


    Facts. Petitioner was charged and convicted of first degree murder for the death of woman named Essie Mae, and sentenced to death. He did not testify at trial but did testify during the punishment phase. The trial court instructed the jury about Petitioner’s constitutional right not to testify. However, the court also instructed the jury that evidence or facts which would have been within Petitioner’s knowledge and failure to deny or explain those evidence or facts unfavorable inference against Petitioner may be drawn.

    Issue. Did the instruction to the jury by the trial court commenting on Petitioner’s failure to testify and what inferences may be drawn violated the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination?

    Held. Justice Douglas issued the opinion for the United States Supreme Court in reversing the conviction and holding that the comment on Petitioner’s failure to testify violated the Fifth Amendment.

    Dissent. Justice Stewart, joined by Justice White, dissents noting that Petitioner was not “compelled.

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