A law of the state of Tennessee (plaintiff) required a criminal defendant desiring to testify on his own behalf to do so before calling any other defense witnesses or forfeit the right to take the stand. Brooks (defendant) was on trial for armed robbery charges. Brooks moved the court to allow him to call other defense witnesses before deciding whether to take the stand. Even though the prosecution agreed to waive the requirement that Brooks testify first, the trial court refused to depart from the statutory requirement. Brooks presented two witnesses but did not take the stand himself. Brooks was convicted and his conviction was upheld in the state courts. Brooks petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.