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Law School Case Brief

Hurtado v. California - 110 U.S. 516, 4 S. Ct. 111 (1884)

Rule:

The United States Supreme Court is unable to say that the substitution for a presentment or indictment by a grand jury of the proceeding by an information, after examination and commitment by a magistrate, certifying to the probable guilt of the defendant, with the right on his part to the aid of counsel, and to the cross-examination of the witnesses produced for the prosecution, is not due process of law.

Facts:

An information was filed against defendant, charging him with murder. Without any previous investigation of the cause by a grand jury, defendant was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Defendant was found guilty by a verdict of murder in the first degree and was then sentenced to death. Defendant appealed the judgment on the ground that he was not legally indicted by or presented to a grand jury, that the proceedings violated due process of law, as they were in conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The lower courts rejected defendant's objections and affirmed the conviction.

Issue:

Was the defendant’s right to due process of law violated by the proceedings from which the defendant was convicted and sentenced to death?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the substitution of an indictment by a grand jury by an information, which certified the probable guilt of defendant, combined with his right to the aid of counsel and to cross-examination of the witnesses, did not violate due process of law. The Court noted that the fact that the Fifth Amendment provided for indictment by grand jury did not mean that the states had to provide such a procedure in order to meet the minimum due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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