ESTELLE V. WILLIAMS, 425 U. S. 501 (1976)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501 (1976)

Estelle v. Williams

No. 74-676

Argued October 7, 1975

Decided May 3, 1976

425 U.S. 501


Respondent, who was charged with a criminal offense and held in custody awaiting trial, asked a jail officer on the morning of trial for his civilian clothes to wear at trial; no action was taken. During voir dire, his counsel expressly referred to respondent's jail attire. At no time before or during the ensuing jury trial was the issue raised to the trial judge concerning the jail attire. Respondent, whose conviction was upheld on appeal, sought federal habeas corpus. The District Court denied relief, but the Court of Appeals reversed. Though there was evidence that, in the county where the trial occurred, the majority of nonbailed defendants were tried in jail clothes, there was no evidence that such a practice was followed if timely objection was made to the trial judge; and the practice of the particular trial judge was to permit any accused who so desired to be tried in civilian garb.

Held: Although the State cannot, consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment, compel an accused to stand trial before a jury while dressed in identifiable prison clothes, the failure to make an objection to the court as to being tried in such clothes negates the presence of the compulsion necessary to establish a constitutional violation. Nothing in the record here warrants a conclusion that respondent was compelled to stand trial in jail garb or that there was sufficient reason to excuse the failure to raise the issue before trial. Pp. 425 U. S. 503-513.

500 F.2d 206, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 425 U. S. 513. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 425 U. S. 515. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 425 U. S. 502

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