Adamson v. California 332 U.S. 46, 67 S.Ct. 1672, 91 L.Ed. 1903 (1947)
Adamson was arrested and
charged with first degree murder.
At trial, Adamson chose not to
testify in his own defense.
Adamson was worried that if
he took the stand, the prosecutor could impeach his testimony with
evidence of Adamson's prior criminal record.
That wouldn't look good to
During closing arguments, the
prosecutor argued that Adamson's refusal to testify could be seen as an
admission of guilt under a California law that allowed the jury to infer
guilt in such cases.
Adamson was found guilty of first
degree murder. He appealed.
The California Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Adamson appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Adamson argued that the 5th
Amendment guaranteed a right against
self-incrimination, and that the prosecutor's statements
(and California State law), violated that right.
The US Supreme Court upheld
The US Supreme Court agreed
that if the case had been handled in Federal Court, Adamson's 5th
Amendment rights would have been
However, the Court found
that the rights guaranteed under the 5th Amendment did not extend to State courts based on the Due
Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Basically, the Court was
saying that while the 14th Amendment guarantees the general concept of a fair
trial, State laws did not have to exactly match the Bill of Rights.
The Court found that even
though the California law was unusual, Adamson still got a reasonably
fair trial, so the Due Process Clause was satisfied.
In many other European
countries (e.g. UK, Germany), there is no right against self-incrimination, so you could argue that it isn't completely
In a dissent, it was argued
that there should be a total incorporation of the Bill of Rights into State law based on the 14th
"I would follow what I
believe was the original purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment- to extend
to all of the people of the nation the complete protection of the Bill of
Rights. To hold that this Court can determine what, if any, provisions,
of the Bill of Rights will be enforced, and if so to what degree, is to
frustrate the great design of a written Constitution."
This decision was later
overruled by Malloy v. Hogan (378
U.S. 1 (1964)), and Benton v. Maryland (395 U.S. 784 (1969))