Williams v. Florida
Annotate this Case
399 U.S. 78 (1970)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970)
Williams v. Florida
Argued March 4, 1970
Decided June 22, 1970
399 U.S. 78
Florida has a rule of criminal procedure requiring a defendant who intends to rely on an alibi to disclose to the prosecution the names of his alibi witnesses; the prosecution must, in turn, disclose to the defense the names of witnesses to rebut the alibi. Failure to comply can result in exclusion of alibi evidence at trial (except for the defendant's own testimony) or, in the case of the State, exclusion of the rebuttal evidence. Petitioner, who was charged with robbery, complied with the rule after failing to be relieved of its requirements. His pretrial motion to impanel a 12-man jury, instead of the six-man jury Florida law provides for noncapital cases, was denied. At trial, the State used a deposition of petitioner's alibi witness to impeach the witness. Petitioner was convicted, and the appellate court affirmed. Petitioner claims that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated, on the ground that the notice-of-alibi rule required him to furnish the State with information useful in convicting him, and that his Sixth Amendment right was violated on the ground that the six-man jury deprived him of the right to "trial by jury" under the Sixth Amendment.
1. Florida's notice-of-alibi rule does not violate the Fifth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 399 U. S. 80-86.
(a) This discovery rule is designed to enhance the search for truth in criminal trials by giving both the accused and the State opportunity to investigate certain facts crucial to the issue of guilt or innocence, and comports with requirements for due process and a fair trial. Pp. 399 U. S. 81 82.
(b) The rule, at most, accelerated the timing of petitioner's disclosure of an alibi defense, and thus did not violate the privilege against compelled self-incrimination. Pp. 399 U. S. 82-86.
2. The constitutional guarantee of a trial by jury does not require that jury membership be fixed at 12, a historically accidental figure. Although accepted at common law, the Framers did not explicitly intend to forever codify as a constitutional requirement a feature not essential to the Sixth Amendment's purpose of interposing
between the defendant and the prosecution the common sense judgment of his peers. Pp. 399 U. S. 86-103.
224 So.2d 406, affirmed.