In the Matter of August Spies, et al. Docket No. 1887-09 123 U.S. 131, 31 L.Ed. 80, 85 S.Ct. 21 ( 1887) Argued October 27, 28, 1887. Decided November 2, 1887.
The words in the Fourteenth Amendment are much too close to those in the Fifth Amendment not to tempt defense attorneys to apply the Bill of Rights to the states. The Fifth Amendment prevents the federal government from violating certain personal liberties, such as the right not to incriminate oneself, but the Fourteenth Amendment protects liberties from the states, and most criminal statutes are passed by state legislatures. Consequently, soon after ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment defendants began to argue that the rights implied in the Fifth Amendment's due process clause were identical to those in the due process clause appearing in the Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, not content to rest with the Fifth Amendment, others argued that all of the rights enumerated in the entire Bill of Rights -- including, for example, the right to a fair trial and the right to trial by jury -- were also applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Spies case is thought by historians to represent the first significant attempt to assert that the effect of the Fourteenth Amendment is to apply at least some of the personal rights listed in the Bill of Rights to the states as well as to the federal government. One of these rights asserted by Spies is the right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment; another is the right not to be compelled to be a witness against oneself, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. The "immunities and privileges" mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment apply these rights, Spies claimed, to citizens of the states as well as to citizens of the federal government.
The Court avoids addressing the issue by asserting that it is irrelevant because Spies did in fact receive a fair trial. That is, the Court felt it was unnecessary to rule on the assertion that the Fourteenth Amendment applies these two personal liberties in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the states because neither of these liberties was violated.