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Sixth Amendment Court Cases -
Compulsory Process Clause

Each of these Sixth Amendment Court Cases is somehow significant to the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the Compulsory Process Clause in the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. Well, most are significant, some are just interesting! You can read about the history and meaning of the Sixth Amendment here.



Sixth Amendment Court Cases

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Like all provisions in the Bill of Rights, the 6th Amendment's Compulsory Process Clause was originally applied only to the Federal government and not to the states. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was passed to ensure that African-Americans were treated equally with other citizens. The Supreme Court gradually began to require the states to abide by the Bill of Rights as well, through its interpretation of the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause. You can read the 14th Amendment here.





Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Compulsory Process Clause cases -
Washington vs. Texas

Washington vs. Texas, 1967, was the case the Court used to apply the Compulsory Process Clause to the States. This case also overturned a Texas law that barred defendants from calling witnesses who had been accomplices in the same alleged crime.

In this case, the accomplice's testimony was allowed to be used by the prosecutor, but the defendant could not call the accomplice to testify on his behalf, according to the Texas statute. The only way the accomplice could have testified in the defendant's behalf is if the accomplice had been acquitted of the charges.

The Court ruled that this was a violation of the Compulsory Process Clause's provision that the defendant can call for witnesses to testify in his behalf. The Court's decision said:

"It is difficult to see how the Constitution is any less violated by the arbitrary rules that prevent whole categories of defense witnesses from testifying on the basis of... categories that presume them unworthy of belief."

Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Compulsory Process Clause cases -
Webb vs. Texas

In Webb vs. Texas, 1972, a trial court judge had given the defendant's only witness a lengthy admonition about not lying to the court, accompanied with very stern warnings about the consequences of doing so. The judge scared the witness so much that he refused to testify at all.

The Court ruled that the judge had violated the defendant's 6th Amendment Compulsory Process Clause right to present his own witnesses in his defense.

Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Compulsory Process Clause cases -
Roviaro vs. United States

In Roviaro vs. United States, 1957, the defendant was charged with and convicted for knowingly possessing and transporting heroin. The government had used an undercover informant in the matter, who was directly involved in bringing about the defendant's possession of the drugs. The informer was there at the time with the defendant when the crime allegedly occurred.

The defense requested the name and address of the informer because it wanted to cross-examine him. The informer may have been able to shed light on the circumstances, especially whether or not the defendant understood that he was carrying drugs. The government refused this request on the grounds that it had the privilege to keep the identity of the informer secret.

The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court said that a formal rule could not be made in circumstances where an undercover informer is involved. Each case must be weighed according to its circumstances. Sometimes it may be justified in keeping the identity of the informer secret. But in this case, the Court said, the overriding interest was the defendant's 6th Amendment Compulsory Process Clause right to produce witnesses in his own defense. The informer was directly involved and probably had important knowledge of the matter that the defense would want to bring out in court.

The Court gave four factors that must be judged when considering whether or not the identity of the informer must be revealed. The ruling said the following:

"The public interest in protecting the flow of information to the Government must be balanced against the individual's right to prepare his defense. Whether nondisclosure is erroneous depends on the particular circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the crime charged, the possible defenses, the possible significance of the informer's testimony, and other relevant factors."

The four factors to be considered are:

  • The nature of the alleged crime
  • The possible defenses of the accused
  • The possible significance of the informer's testimony
  • Any other relevant factors or circumstances

  • Read more about the history and meaning of the Compulsory Process Clause here.
    Read more about the history and meaning of the 6th Amendment here.

    Learn more about Sixth Amendment Cases relating to the following Sixth Amendment clauses:

    Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Speedy Trial Clause
    Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Public Trial Clause
    Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Right to Trial by Jury Clause
    Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Arraignment Clause
    Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Confrontation Clause
    Sixth Amendment Court Cases - Right to Counsel Clause



    Thanks for reading about these Sixth Amendment Cases with
    Revolutionary War and Beyond!



    If you would like to read about the meanings of each amendment, go to the First Ten Amendments page here.

    Amendments:

    Preamble to the Bill of Rights
    Learn about the 1st Amendment here.
    Learn about the 2nd Amendment here.
    Learn about the 3rd Amendment here.
    Learn about the 4th Amendment here.
    Learn about the 5th Amendment here.
    Learn about the 6th Amendment here.
    Learn about the 7th Amendment here.
    Learn about the 8th Amendment here.
    Learn about the 9th Amendment here.
    Learn about the 10th Amendment here.

    Read the Bill of Rights here.







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