No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
As noted, the provisions of the Bill of Rights now applicable to the states contain basic guarantees of a fair trial—right to counsel, right to speedy and public trial, right to be free from use of unlawfully seized evidence and unlawfully obtained confessions, and the like. But this does not exhaust the requirements of fairness.
Due process of law requires that the proceedings shall be fair, but fairness is a relative, not an absolute concept. . . . What is fair in one set of circumstances may be an act of tyranny in others.1 Conversely,
as applied to a criminal trial, denial of due process is the failure to observe that fundamental fairness essential to the very concept of justice. In order to declare a denial of it . . . [the Court] must find that the absence of that fairness fatally infected the trial; the acts complained of must be of such quality as necessarily prevents a fair trial.2
For instance, bias or prejudice either inherent in the structure of the trial system or as imposed by external events will deny one’s right to a fair trial. Thus, in Tumey v. Ohio3 it was held to violate due process for a judge to receive compensation out of the fines imposed on convicted defendants, and no compensation beyond his salary)
if he does not convict those who are brought before him. Or, in other cases, the Court has found that contemptuous behavior in court may affect the impartiality of the presiding judge, so as to disqualify such judge from citing and sentencing the contemnors.4 Due process is also violated by the participation of a biased or otherwise partial juror, although there is no presumption that all jurors with a potential bias are in fact prejudiced.5