Fred Stroble v. State of California Docket No. 1952-373 343 U.S. 181, 96 L.Ed. 872, 72 S.Ct. 599 ( 1952) Argued March 6, 1952. Decided May 12, 1952.
Stroble continues an interest that first attracted the attention of the Court shortly after the end of World War I: concern for the impartiality of the jury as a whole, not simply with the possible prejudice of an individual juror. Initially, this new interest focused primarily on the racial prejudice of a community from which prospective jurors were selected. Perhaps nowhere is this interest better expressed than in the concurring opinion by Justice Robert H. Jackson -- joined only by Justice Felix Frankfurter -- in Shepherd v. Florida ( 1951). Jackson recognized the possibility that prejudice infecting an entire community is not necessarily purely an immutable, indigenous phenomenon; it can be inflamed by the press. In Stroble v. California, a year later, the Court turns from the racial aspect of jury impartiality and focuses specifically on the impact of the mass media and more narrowly on the ramifications for a fair trial of publishing confessions.
Perhaps because in Shepherd Jackson pointed out several threats to a fair trial arising from the publication in the press of a confession, Stroble's attorneys claimed he did not receive a fair trial as a result of his numerous confessions being widely published. Indeed, while Stroble was in the very process of confessing, the district attorney was releasing portions of his statements to the press. Jackson noted in Shepherd that some of the dangers of publishing confessions are that defendants do not have an opportunity to confront those persons who claim to have witnessed it, to cross-examine these witnesses, or even to contradict their testimony, all rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
The Court, however, drew important distinctions between Stroble's plight and the situation of the three young African Americans convicted of rape in rural central Florida. Stroble, for example, failed to ask for a change of venue, whereas Shepherd many times requested a different trial location.