225 U.S. 167 (1912), 519, Jordan v. Massachusetts

Docket Nº:No. 519
Citation:225 U.S. 167, 32 S.Ct. 651, 56 L.Ed. 1038
Party Name:Jordan v. Massachusetts
Case Date:May 27, 1912
Court:United States Supreme Court

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225 U.S. 167 (1912)

32 S.Ct. 651, 56 L.Ed. 1038




No. 519

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1912

Argued April 16, 1912




Subject to the requirement of due process of law, the states are under no restriction as to their methods of procedure in the administration of public justice. Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78, 111.

Due process of law implies a tribunal both impartial and mentally competent to afford a hearing, but due process is not denied when a competent state court refuses to set aside a verdict because the sanity of one of the jurors which has been questioned is established, after an inquiry in accordance with the established procedure of the state, only by a preponderance of evidence.

In this case, held that one convicted by a jury and sentenced to death was not denied due process of law because, after the verdict, one of the jurors became insane and the court, after an inquiry had in accordance with the established procedure of the state, found by a preponderance of evidence that the juror was of sufficient mental capacity during the trial to act a such, and therefore refused to set the verdict aside.

The practice of the Massachusetts courts in this case was not inconsistent with the rules of the common law in regard to determining the mental capacity of jurors.

207 Mass. 259 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the question of whether one convicted in a state court by a jury, a member of which was possibly insane at the time, was denied due process of law, are stated in the opinion.

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LURTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error was convicted of the crime of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death, and the judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Judicial Court

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of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The case is brought here upon a single question -- namely, that the plaintiff in error has been denied due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment because he was tried by a jury which included one Willis A. White, concerning whose sanity it is said there existed reasonable doubt.

The jury had been selected in the usual way, and White had been accepted without knowledge by the state or the defendant of any question concerning his mental fitness. It was impaneled on April 20, 1909. On May 4, it was charged, and on the same day returned a verdict. On May 10, a motion for a new trial was made based upon the suggestion by counsel for the prisoner that the juror White, during the hearing and at the time the verdict was agreed upon, was insane and incompetent to participate as a juror. The motion was heard by two of the trial justices of the superior court, and much oral evidence bearing upon the sanity of the juror was introduced, all of which has been preserved by a bill of exceptions. At the conclusion of the evidence, the prisoner presented no less than seventy-two requests for rulings and findings, made part of the record. The court found and ruled as follows:

We find by a fair preponderance of all the evidence as a fact that the juror Willis A. White was of sufficient mental capacity, during the entire trial of Chester S. Jordan until after the verdict was returned, to intelligently consider the evidence, appreciate the arguments of counsel, the rulings of law, the charge of the court, and to arrive at a rational conclusion, and therefore we deny the motion.

Having found the above fact, we deem it unnecessary to consider the requests for rulings.

The numerous requests for rulings and special findings all relate to the burden of proof and the rules for the weighing of evidence upon the issues presented.

The Supreme Judicial Court, after a consideration of

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the evidence upon which this finding was based, ruled that it could not be said that there was not evidence warranting the conclusion of the trial judges.

We shall assume that both the trial court and the Supreme Judicial Court have sustained the verdict of the jury because they were of opinion that it was not essential that the sanity of the juror under the circumstances of this case should be established by more than a fair preponderance of the evidence. The insistence is that thereby the constitutional guaranty of due process of law, found in the Fourteenth Amendment, has been violated.

That the procedure in this case was in conformity with the Constitution and law of Massachusetts is determined by the judgment...

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