294 U.S. 587 (1935), 534, Norris v. Alabama

Docket Nº:No. 534
Citation:294 U.S. 587, 55 S.Ct. 579, 79 L.Ed. 1074
Party Name:Norris v. Alabama
Case Date:April 01, 1935
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 587

294 U.S. 587 (1935)

55 S.Ct. 579, 79 L.Ed. 1074

Norris

v.

Alabama

No. 534

United States Supreme Court

April 1, 1935

Argued February 15, 18, 1935

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA

Syllabus

1. Exclusion of all negroes from a grand jury by which a negro is indicted, or from the petit jury by which he is tried for the offense, resulting from systematic and arbitrary exclusion of negroes from the jury lists solely because of their race or color, is a denial of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed to him by the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 589.

2. Whenever a conclusion of law of a state court as to a federal right is so intermingled with findings of fact that the latter control the former, it is incumbent upon this Court to analyze the facts in order that the enforcement of the federal right may be assured. P. 590.

3. Evidence reviewed and found to establish systematic exclusion of negroes from jury service in two Alabama counties, solely because of their race and color. Pp. 590, 596.

229 Ala. 226; 156 So. 556, reversed.

CERTIORARI, 293 U.S. 552, to review a judgment affirming a conviction of rape.

Page 588

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

MP. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, Clarence Norris, is one of nine negro boys who were indicted in March, 1931, in Jackson County, Alabama, for the crime of rape. On being brought to trial in that county, eight were convicted. The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed the conviction of one of these, and affirmed that of seven, including Norris. This Court reversed the judgments of conviction upon the ground that the defendants had been denied due process of law in that the trial court had failed, in the light of the circumstances disclosed, and of the inability of the defendants at that time to obtain counsel, to make an effective appointment of counsel to aid them in preparing and presenting their defense. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45.

After the remand, a motion for change of venue was granted, and the cases were transferred to Morgan County. Norris was brought to trial in November, 1933. At the outset, a motion was made on his behalf to quash the indictment upon the ground of the exclusion of negroes from juries in Jackson County where the indictment was found. A motion was also made to quash the trial venire in Morgan County upon the ground of the exclusion of negroes from juries in that county. In relation to each county, the charge was of long-continued, systematic and arbitrary exclusion of qualified negro citizens from service on juries solely because of their race and color, in violation of the Constitution of the United States. The State joined issue on this charge, and, after hearing the evidence, which we shall presently review, the trial judge denied both motions, and exception was taken. The trial then proceeded, and resulted in the conviction of Norris, who was sentenced to death. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the State considered [55 S.Ct. 580] and decided the federal question

Page 589

which Norris had raised, and affirmed the judgment. 229 Ala. 226; 156 So. 556. We granted a writ of certiorari. 293 U.S. 552.

First. There is no controversy as to the constitutional principle involved. That principle, long since declared, was not challenged, but was expressly recognized, by the Supreme Court of the State. Summing up precisely the effect of earlier decisions, this Court thus stated the principle in Carter v. Texas, 177 U.S. 442, 447, in relation to exclusion from service on grand juries:

Whenever, by any action of a State, whether through its legislature, through its courts, or through its executive or administrative officers, all persons of the African race are excluded solely because of their race or color, from serving as grand jurors in the criminal prosecution of a person of the African race, the equal protection of the laws is denied to him, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303; Neal v. Delaware, 103 U.S. 370, 397; Gibson v. Mississippi, 162 U.S. 565.

This statement was repeated in the same terms in Rogers v. Alabama, 192 U.S. 226, 231, and again in Martin v. Texas, 200 U.S. 316, 319. The principle is equally applicable to a similar exclusion of negroes from service on petit juries. Strauder v. West Virginia, supra; Martin v. Texas, supra. And although the state statute defining the qualifications of jurors may be fair on its face, the constitutional provision affords protection against action of the State through its administrative officers in effecting the prohibited discrimination. Neal v. Delaware, supra; Carter v. Texas, supra. Compare Virginia v. Rives, 100 U.S. 313, 322, 323; In re Wood, 140 U.S. 278, 285; Thomas v. Texas, 212 U.S. 278, 282, 283.

The question is of the application of this established principle to the facts disclosed by the record. That the question is one of fact does not relieve us of the duty to

Page 590

determine whether, in truth, a federal right has been denied. When a federal right has been specially set up and claimed in a state court, it is our province to inquire not merely whether it was denied in express terms, but also whether it was denied in substance and effect. If this requires an examination of evidence, that examination must be made. Otherwise, review by this Court would fail of its purpose in safeguarding constitutional rights. Thus, whenever a conclusion of law of a state court as to a federal right and findings of fact are so intermingled that the latter control the former, it is incumbent upon us to analyze the facts in order that the appropriate enforcement of the federal right may be assured. Creswell v. Knights of Pythias, 225 U.S. 246, 261; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. North Dakota, 236 U.S. 585, 593; Ward v. Love County, 253 U.S. 17, 22; Davis v. Wechsler, 263 U.S. 22, 24; Fiske v. Kansas, 274 U.S. 380, 385, 386; Ancient Etian Order v. Michaux, 279 U.S. 737, 745.

Second. The evidence on the motion to quash the indictment. In 1930, the total...

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