Adamson v. California Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder in California state court after his refusal to take the stand and testify was commented on by opposing trial counsel.

Facts of the case

Adamson was convicted in California of murder in the first degree. During the trial, the prosecutor, in accordance with a California law, made comments to the jury which highlighted Adamson’s decision not to testify on his own behalf.


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


No. The court affirms the appellant’s conviction.
The due process clause does not include all of the federal Bill of Rights. Here, it did not protect a defendant’s freedom from giving testimony by compulsion in state trials.


The due process clause did not protect defendant’s freedom from giving testimony by compulsion in state trials. The Fourteenth Amendment prevented a state from abridging the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, but a state was free to abridge, within the limits of the due process clause, the privileges and immunities flowing from state citizenship. Failure of defendant to testify was not an admission of the truth of the adverse evidence. Instructions told the jury that the burden of proof remained upon the state and the presumption of innocence remained with defendant. Comment on failure to deny proven facts did not in California tend to supply any missing element of proof of guilt.

  • Case Brief: 1947
  • Petitioner: Dewey Adamson
  • Respondent: California
  • Decided by: Vinson Court

  • Citation: 332 US 46 (1947)
    Argued: Jan 16, 1947
  • Jan 15, 1946
  • Jan 16, 1947
    Decided: Jun 23, 1947″