The Fuller Court (1888–1910)

Criminal Justice

CourtSpeak: Twining v. New Jersey Self-incrimination Case (1908)

Justice William Moody (majority): “Even if the historical meaning of due process of law and the decisions of this court did not exclude the privilege from it, it would be going far to rate it as an immutable principle of justice which is the inalienable possession of every citizen of a free government…. The wisdom of the exemption has never been universally assented to since the days of [Jeremy] Bentham [a famous nineteenth-century English philosopher who generally argued in favor of individual freedom], many doubt it today, and it is best defended not as an unchangeable principle of universal justice, but as a law proved by experience to be expedient.”

Justice John Marshall Harlan (dissenting): “The Fourteenth Amendment would have been disapproved by every state in the Union if it had saved or recognized the right of a state to compel one accused of crime, in its courts, to be a witness against himself. We state the matter in this way because it is common knowledge that the compelling of a person to incriminate himself shocks or ought to shock the sense of right and justice to everyone who loves liberty. Indeed, this court has not hesitated thus to characterize the star chamber method of compelling an accused to be a witness against himself.”


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