Chambers v. Mississippi

410 U.S. 284, 93 S. Ct. 1038 (1973)



The rights to confront and cross-examine witnesses and to call witnesses in one's own behalf are essential to due process. A person's right to reasonable notice of a charge against him, and an opportunity to be heard in his defense--a right to his day in court--are basic in our system of jurisprudence; and these rights include, as a minimum, a right to examine the witnesses against him, to offer testimony, and to be represented by counsel. 


Defendant was convicted of murdering a policeman. The state supreme court affirmed the judgment. The defendant elevated the case on certiorari on the ground that defendant's trial was not conducted in accord with principles of due process in light of the trial court's failure to allow defendant to cross-examine a key witness and the exclusion of evidence by application of the state hearsay rule. 


Was the defendant denied due process?




The Court reversed defendant's conviction. It held that the exclusion, under state hearsay rules, of exculpatory testimony that another party had committed the crime, which under the circumstances was likely to be trustworthy and within the rationale of the exception for declarations against penal interest, coupled with the State's refusal to allow defendant to cross-examine a key witness because of a common-law rule that a party may not impeach his own witness, denied him a trial in accord with fundamental standards of due process.

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