The United States v. Thomas Reid and Edward Clements 53 U.S. 361, 13 L.Ed. 1023, 12 Howard 361 ( 1851)
In the landmark case Barron v. Baltimore ( 1833), the Court ruled that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution do not limit the power of the states. The Court wrote, "Had the framers of these [ten] amendments intended them to be limitations on the powers of the State governments they would have imitated the framers of the original Constitution and have expressed that intention" (250). Because most criminal statutes were passed by state legislatures, it is not surprising that for about its first sixty years of existence the Court found no opportunity to address the conflict between the First and Sixth Amendments.
In fact, Reid represents the first time the Court evaluated the impact on a fair trial of jurors reading a newspaper story about some aspect of a trial they were part of. It is an inauspicious beginning. The Court only reluctantly addressed the issue, declining to set down a "general rule." Yet, with some reticence, the justices did "receive" the sworn word of jurors saying the newspaper article did not influence their verdict. The importance of receiving these affidavits is tempered, however, by the Court's assertion that there was nothing substantive in the newspaper article that would have influenced these jurors' decision even if they did, in fact, read it as they swore in the affidavits that they did.
It would appear that the Court eventually was able to muster enough courage to suggest that two conditions may be worthy of consideration when contemplating denying a request for a new trial on the basis that one or more jurors had read a newspaper account of at least part of the original trial. The first condition is whether the content of the newspaper article about the trial is such that it would not influence the jurors' opinions even if they did read it. The second is whether the jurors are willing to swear that reading the information did not influence their verdict.