The passage centers around the Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process and how a state statute violated this right by preventing a key witness from testifying for an accused individual. The Supreme Court ultimately reversed the decision, asserting that the statute was unconstitutional. The passage raises the question of whether this constitutional right is incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. The right to present witnesses and compel their attendance is crucial to due process, as it allows the accused to challenge the prosecution's witnesses and present their own version of events. The passage also discusses how federal courts have overruled common-law restrictions on witnesses, allowing any person with knowledge of the facts involved in a case to testify.
Justice Harlan, in his concurring opinion, disagrees with the incorporation of specific provisions of the Bill of Rights into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, he agrees with the reversal of the conviction in this case because the state cannot prohibit a criminal defendant from presenting testimony from someone indicted in connection with the same offense, who would be allowed to testify if called by the prosecution. The author of the opinion agrees with the reversal of the conviction because the state has arbitrarily prohibited the defendant from using relevant and competent testimony from a particular type of witness, which violates the Due Process Clause. The author distinguishes this case from situations where the state has validly determined that a particular class of persons should be disqualified as witnesses based on general experience.
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