• Last updated on November 11, 2022

Ruling that the Fifth Amendment requirement for a grand jury indictment is not binding on the states, the Supreme Court interpreted the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a requirement for “fundamental principles of liberty and justice.”

Joseph Hurtado was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. In conformity with the California state constitution, he was never indicted by a grand jury, but his trial was initiated by the prosecutor’s filing a statement of information. Appealing the conviction, Hurtado argued that the lack of a grand jury violated the procedural requirements of the Fifth Amendment as well as the common law.ncorporation doctrine;Hurtado v. California[Hurtado v. California]

In his opinion in the Hurtado case, Justice Stanley Matthews assumed that the meaning of "due process" was the same in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

(Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

By a 7-1 vote, the Supreme Court rejected Hurtado’s argument. Justice Stanley MatthewsMatthews, Stanley;Hurtado v. California[Hurtado v. California] assumed that the meaning of “due process” was the same in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Then using an interpretative rule that regards no words of the Constitution to be superfluous, Matthews concluded that the due process in the Fifth Amendment could not logically refer to the same procedures mentioned in the amendment. Due process, in the majority’s view, was a flexible requirement for fairness in trials. In dissent, John M. Harlan II argued for the full incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Later courts have rejected the nonsuperfluous rule, but the main holding in Hurtado remains good law.[case]Hurtado v. California[Hurtado v. California]

Barron v. Baltimore

Due process, procedural

Grand jury

Incorporation doctrine

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