419 U.S. 522 (1975), 73-5744, Taylor v. Louisiana

Docket Nº:No. 73-5744
Citation:419 U.S. 522, 95 S.Ct. 692, 42 L.Ed.2d 690
Party Name:Taylor v. Louisiana
Case Date:January 21, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 522

419 U.S. 522 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 692, 42 L.Ed.2d 690




No. 73-5744

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 21, 1975

Argued October 16, 1974



Appellant, a male, was convicted of a crime by a petit jury selected from a venire on which there were no women and which was selected pursuant to a system resulting from Louisiana constitutional and statutory requirements that [95 S.Ct. 694] a woman should not be selected for jury service unless she had previously filed a written declaration of her desire to be subject to jury service. The State Supreme Court affirmed, having rejected appellant's challenge to the constitutionality of the state jury selection scheme.


1. Appellant had standing to make his constitutional claim, there being no rule that such a claim may be asserted only by defendants who are members of the group excluded from jury service. Peters v. Kiff, 407 U.S. 493. P. 526.

2. The requirement that a petit jury be selected from a representative cross-section of the community, which is fundamental to the jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, is violated by the systematic exclusion of women from jury panels, which in the judicial district here involved amounted to 53% of the citizens eligible for jury service. Pp. 526-533.

3. No adequate justification was shown here for the challenged jury selection provisions and the right to a jury selected from a fair cross-section of the community cannot be overcome on merely rational grounds. Pp. 533-535.

4. It can no longer be held that women as a class may be excluded from jury service or given automatic exemptions based solely on sex if the consequence is that criminal jury venires are almost all male, and contrary implications of prior cases, e.g., Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57, cannot be followed. Pp. 535-537.

282 So.2d 491, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., concurred in the result. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 538.

Page 523

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

When this case was tried, Art. VII, § 41,1 of the Louisiana Constitution, and Art. 402 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure2 provided that a woman should not be selected for jury service unless she had previously filed a written declaration of her desire to be subject to jury service. The constitutionality of these provisions is the issue in this case.

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Appellant, Billy J. Taylor, was indicted by the grand jury of St. Tammany Parish, in the Twenty-second Judicial District of Louisiana, for aggravated kidnaping. On April 12, 1972, appellant moved the trial court to quash the petit jury venire drawn for the special criminal term beginning with his trial the following day. Appellant alleged that women were systematically excluded from the venire and that he would therefore be deprived of what he claimed to [95 S.Ct. 695] be his federal constitutional right to "a fair trial by jury of a representative segment of the community. . . ."

The Twenty-second Judicial District comprises the parishes of St. Tammany and Washington. The appellee has stipulated that 53% of the persons eligible for jury service in these parishes were female, and that no more than 10% of the persons on the jury wheel in St. Tammany Parish were women.3 During the period from December 8, 1971, to November 3, 19,72, 12 females were among the 1,800 persons drawn to fill petit jury venires in St. Tammany Parish. It was also stipulated that the discrepancy between females eligible for jury service and those actually included in the venire was the result of the operation of La.Const., Art. VII, § 41, and La.Code Crim.Proc., Art. 402.4 In the present case, a venire totaling 175 persons was drawn for jury service beginning April 13, 1972. There were no females on the venire.

Appellant's motion to quash the venire was denied that same day. After being tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, appellant sought review in the Supreme Court of Louisiana, where he renewed his claim that the

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petit jury venire should have been quashed. The Supreme Court of Louisiana, recognizing that this claim drew into question the constitutionality of the provisions of the Louisiana Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure dealing with the service of women on juries, squarely held, one justice dissenting, that these provisions were valid and not unconstitutional under federal law. 282 So.2d 491, 497 (1973).5

Appellant appealed from that decision to this Court. We noted probable jurisdiction, 415 U.S. 911 (1974), to consider whether the Louisiana jury selection system deprived appellant of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to an impartial jury trial. We hold that it did, and that these Amendments were violated in this case by the operation of La.Const., Art. VII, § 41, and La.Code Crim.Proc., Art. 402. In consequence, appellant's conviction must be reversed.


The Louisiana jury selection system does not disqualify women from jury service, but, in operation, its conceded systematic impact is that only a very few women, grossly disproportionate to the number of eligible women in the community, are called for jury service. In this case, no women were on the venire from which the petit jury was drawn. The issue we have, therefore, is whether a jury selection system which operates to exclude from jury service an identifiable class of citizens constituting 53%

Page 526

of eligible jurors in the community comports with the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The State first insists that Taylor, a male, has no standing to object to the exclusion of women from his jury. But Taylor's claim is that he was constitutionally entitled to a jury drawn from a venire constituting a fair cross-section of the community, and that the jury that tried him was not such a jury by reason of the exclusion of women. Taylor was not a member of the excluded class, but there is no rule that claims such as Taylor presents may be made only by those defendants who are members of the group excluded from jury service. In Peters v. Kiff, 407 U.S. 493 (1972), [95 S.Ct. 696] the defendant, a white man, challenged his conviction on the ground that Negroes had been systematically excluded from jury service. Six Members of the Court agreed that petitioner was entitled to present the issue, and concluded that he had been deprived of his federal rights. Taylor, in the case before us, was similarly entitled to tender and have adjudicated the claim that the exclusion of women from jury service deprived him of the kind of factfinder to which he was constitutionally entitled.


The background against which this case must be decided includes our holding in Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968), that the Sixth Amendment's provision for jury trial is made binding on the States by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment. Our inquiry is whether the presence of a fair cross-section of the community on venires, panels, or lists from which petit juries are drawn is essential to the fulfillment of the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of an impartial jury trial in criminal prosecutions.

The Court's prior cases are instructive. Both in the

Page 527

course of exercising its supervisory powers over trials in federal courts and in the constitutional context, the Court has unambiguously declared that the American concept of the jury trial contemplates a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community. A unanimous Court stated in Smith v. Texas, 311 U.S. 128, 130 (1940), that

[i]t is part of the established tradition in the use of juries as instruments of public justice that the jury be a body truly representative of the community.

To exclude racial groups from jury service was said to be "at war with our basic concepts of a democratic society and a representative government." A state jury system that resulted in systematic exclusion of Negroes as jurors was therefore held to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 85-86 (1942), in the context of a federal criminal case and the Sixth Amendment's jury trial requirement, stated that

[o]ur notions of what a proper jury is have developed in harmony with our basic concepts of a democratic society and a representative government,

and repeated the Court's understanding that the jury "`be a body truly representative of the community' . . . , and not the organ of any special group or class."

A federal conviction by a jury from which women had been excluded, although eligible for service under state law, was reviewed in Ballard v. United States, 329 U.S. 187 (1946). Noting the federal statutory "design to make the jury `a cross-section of the community'" and the fact that women had been excluded, the Court exercised its supervisory powers over the federal courts and reversed the conviction. In Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 474 (1953), the Court declared that

[o]ur duty to protect he federal constitutional rights of all does not mean we must or should impose on states our conception of the proper source of jury lists, so long as the source

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reasonably reflects a cross-section of the population suitable in character and intelligence for that civic duty.

Some years later, in Carter v. Jury Comm'n, 396 U.S. 320, 330 (1970), the Court observed that the exclusion of Negroes from jury service because of their race "contravenes the very idea of a jury -- `a body truly representative of the community.' . . ." (Quoting from Smith v. Texas, supra.) At about the same time, it was contended that the use of six-man juries in noncapital criminal cases violated the Sixth Amendment for failure to provide juries drawn from a cross-section...

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