103 U.S. 370 (1881), Neal v. State Of Delaware

Citation:103 U.S. 370, 26 L.Ed. 567
Party Name:NEAL v. DELAWARE.
Case Date:May 02, 1881
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 370

103 U.S. 370 (1881)

26 L.Ed. 567

NEAL

v.

DELAWARE.

United States Supreme Court.

May 02, 1881

1. The adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment rendered inoperative a provision in the then existing Constitution of a State, whereby the right of suffrage was limited to the white race.

2. Therefore, a statute confining the selection of jurors to persons possessing the qualifications of electors is enlarged in its operation so as to embrace all those who, by the Constitution of the State, as modified by that amendment, are entitled to vote.

3. The presumption should be indulged, in the first instance, that the State recognizes as binding on all her citizens and every department of her government an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, from the time of its adoption, and her duty to enforce it, within her limits, without reference to any inconsistent provisions in her own Constitution or statutes.

4. In this case, that presumption is strengthened and becomes conclusive, not only by the direct adjudication of the highest court of the State of Delaware that her Constitution had been modified by force of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, but by the entire absence of any statutory enactment, since their adoption, indicating that she does not recognize, in the fullest legal sense, their effect upon her Constitution and laws. Where, therefore, a negro, indicted in one of her courts for a felony, presented a petition alleging that persons of African descent were, by reason of their race and color, excluded by those laws from service on juries, and praying that the prosecution against him be removed to the Circuit Court of the United States,--Held, that the prayer of the petition was properly denied.

5. Had the State, since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, enacted any statute in conflict with its provisions, or had her judicial tribunals repudiated it as a part of the supreme law of the land, or declared that the acts passed to enforce it were inoperative and void, there would have been just ground to hold that the case was one embraced by sect. 641 of the Revised Statutes, and, therefore, removable into the Circuit Court.

6. The exclusion, because of their race and color, of citizens of African descent from the grand jury that found, and from the petit jury that was summoned to try, the indictment, if made by the jury commissioners, without authority derived from the Constitution and laws of the State, was a violation of the prisoner's rights, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, which the trial court was bound to redress; and the remedy for any failure in that respect is ultimately in this court upon writ of error.

7. Upon the showing made by the prisoner, the motions to quash the indictment and the panels of jurors should have been sustained.

8. The court reaffirms the doctrines announced in Strauder v. West Virginia (100 U.S. 303), Virginia v. Rives (id. 315), and Ex parte Virginia (id. 339).

ERROR to the Court of Oyer and Terminer of New Castle County, State of Delaware.

Page 371

Page 371

The plaintiff in error, a citizen of African descent, was, on May 11, 1880, indicted in the Court of General Sessions of the Peace and Jail Delivery of New Castle County, Delaware, for the crime of rape,--an offence punishable, under the laws of that State, with death. The indictment was, by a writ ofcertiorari, removed for trial into the Court of Oyer and Terminer for the same county, the highest judicial tribunal of Delaware in which the decision of such a case could be had. In the latter court, the accused, by counsel specially assigned for his defence, filed the following petition:----

'In the Court of Oyer and Terminer of the State of Delaware, sitting in and for New Castle County. May Term, A.D. 1880.

'THE STATE OF DELAWARE

v.

WILLIAM NEAL.

'Indictment for Rape, certified from the Court of General Sessions for said County.

'To the Honorable Court of Oyer and Terminer of the State of Delaware, sitting in and for New Castle County.

'The petition of William Neal respectfully represents that your petitioner is the defendant in the above-entitled indictment for the crime of rape alleged to have been committed on one Margaret E. Gosser; that said indictment was found in the Court of General Sessions of the Peace and Jail Delivery for said county, by the grand inquest of said county, on the eleventh day of May instant, and has since been duly certified into the Court of Oyer and Terminer for said county.

'That your petitioner is a citizen of the United States and of the State of Delaware, of African race and descent from black in color; that, by the statutes of the State, all persons qualified to vote at the general election are liable to serve as jurors, except public officers of the said State or of the United States, counsellors and attorneys at law, ordained ministers of the gospel, officers of colleges and teachers in public schools, practicing physicians, surgeons regularly licensed, cashiers of incorporated banks, and all persons who are more than seventy years of age.

'That by the Constitution of the State, the right of an elector is enjoyed only by male citizens above the age of twenty-one years, who are also free white persons, and is not enjoyed by virtue of the

Page 372

Page 372

provisions of that Constitution, by persons otherwise qualified, who are not white persons.

'That the Levy Court of New Castle County are required by the law of the State, at its annual session in March, to select from the list of taxable citizens of each county the names of one hundred sober and judicious persons to serve, if summoned, as grand jurors at the several courts to be holden in that year; and also the names of one hundred and fifty other sober and judicious persons to serve, if summoned, as petit jurors in said courts; that said Levy Court for said county, at their annual session in March last, in selecting persons to serve as grand jurors and petit jurors as aforesaid, if summoned, for the courts aforesaid, including both the Court of General Sessions and the Court of Oyer and Terminer, as aforesaid, selected no persons of color, or African race, to serve as such jurors as aforesaid; but, on the contrary thereof, did exclude all colored persons and persons of African race, because of their race and color, from those selected as aforesaid to serve as and be drawn for jurors as aforesaid; that the prothonotary and clerk of the peace for said county drew from the lists of those so selected as aforesaid to serve as grand jurors the grand jurors by whom the said indictment against your petitioner was found, and also drew from the list of those selected as aforesaid to serve as petit jurors the petit jurors by whom your petitioner is to be tried for his life under said indictment, and that from both the grand jury aforesaid and from the said petit jury all persons otherwise qualified by law to serve as jurors as aforesaid who were persons of color and of African race, were excluded as aforesaid, because of their race and color, from serving thereon as jurors, and that said grand and petit juries were drawn from and composed of exclusively white persons, and that, in fact, persons of color and of African race, though otherwise qualified, have always in said county and State been excluded from serving on juries because of their race and color; that by reason of the exclusion as aforesaid from said grand and petit juries in said courts of all persons of color and African race, because of their race and color, though otherwise qualified to serve as jurors, your petitioner, in the finding of said indictment, has been, and in the trial thereof will be, denied the equal protection of the laws; and will not have the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings in the State of Delaware for the security of his person in the trial of said indictment as is enjoyed by white persons.

'That by reason of the exclusion as aforesaid of all persons of color and African race from said grand and petit juries in said courts,

Page 373

Page 373

and by reason of the Constitution and laws of Delaware in respect to the qualifications of jurors excluding from said grand and petit jury all colored persons of African race, your petitioner is denied, and cannot enforce in the judicial tribunals of the State, a right secured to him by the law of the United States providing for the equal civil rights of citizens of the United States, to wit, the rights under the fourteenth article of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States to the equal protection of the laws; and to the right under said amendment and the acts of Congress in the enforcement thereof to a trial under said indictment for his life by a jury from which the State of Delaware has not excluded all persons of his own race and color because of their race and color.

'Your petitioner therefore prays this honorable court that the said indictment and its prosecution be removed into the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Delaware for trial at the next ensuing term of said Circuit Court.

'And your petitioner will ever pray.

'WILLIAM his mark. NEAL.

'Sworn to and subscribed by the said William Neal, the thirteenth day of May, A.D. 1880, before me.

JOHN P. SPRINGER, C. P.

'STATE OF DELAWARE,

'New Castle County, ss:

'On this fourteenth day of May, A.D. 1880, before me, John P. Springer, clerk of the peace and of the Court of Oyer and Terminer and the Court of General Sessions of the Peace and Jail Delivery for New Castle County, personally appeared William Neal, who, being by me first solemnly sworn according to law, says that the facts set forth in the foregoing petition (signed by him by making his mark thereunto in my presence) are true to the best of his knowledge and belief.

WILLIAM his mark. NEAL.

'Sworn to and...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP