No. 202. Argued March 9, 1965. Decided April 28, 1965.
In 1964 Edward Dean Griffin was brought before a court, convicted and tried for the crime of first degree murder. Griffin had been invited to the apartment of Essie Hodson and her boyfriend Eddie Seay. After all three had went to bed Seay woke up to find Griffin and Hodson struggling. Hodson claimed that Griffin had tried to force her into unwanted sex. Seay locked Griffin out of the apartment. However, Griffin broke back in and hit Seay in the head. Seay went to a nearby bar to get help and when he returned neither Hodson nor Griffin were there. The next morning, a witness saw Griffin coming out of a large trash bin in a nearby alley and noted that Griffin was adjusting his pants. The witness found Essie Hodson in the trash bin. She was bleeding and in shock. Hodson passed away the next day at a local hospital from the injuries sustained from the violent attack.
Griffin was tried for the first degree murder of Essie Hodson. During trial, Griffin refused to take the stand and testify. Both the judge and the district attorney commented about Griffins silence to the jury stating:
“As to any evidence or facts against him which the defendant can reasonably be expected to deny or explain because of facts within his knowledge, if he does not testify or if, though he does testify, he fails to deny or explain such evidence, the jury may take that failure into consideration as tending to indicate the truth of such evidence and as indicating that among the inferences that may be reasonably drawn therefrom those unfavorable to the defendant are the more probable."
The Prosecutor also added, "These things he has not seen fit to take the stand and deny or explain and in the whole world, if anybody would know, this defendant would know. Essie Mae is dead, she can't tell you her side of the story. The defendant won't." The death penalty was imposed and Griffin felt as though the comments made during his trial were an obstruction of justice and caused an unfair trial. He then appealed to the California State Supreme Court. The court upheld the previous ruling and claimed the comments made during trial had no effect on the ruling in Griffin’s case. Griffin was still unsatisfied and, therefore, appealed his case to the United States Supreme Court in 1965.
The first ten amendments in the United States Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. Of these amendments, the fifth calls for due process during trial, outlaws double jeopardy and states that a person cannot be forced to testify as a witness against him or herself. A defendant is allowed to “plea the fifth” and stay silent during trial. Because of these provisions should a jury instruction on the accused’s silence be reversible error?
The case was argued on March 9, 1965 and then decided on April 28, 1965. In a 6-2 vote the court sided with Griffin. The Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment protect...