443 U.S. 545 (1979), 77-1701, Rose v. Mitchell

Docket NºNo. 77-1701
Citation443 U.S. 545, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 61 L.Ed.2d 739
Party NameRose v. Mitchell
Case DateJuly 02, 1979
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 545

443 U.S. 545 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 2993, 61 L.Ed.2d 739

Rose

v.

Mitchell

No. 77-1701

United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1979

Argued January 16, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondents, who are Negroes, were indicted by a county grand jury in Tennessee for murder. They filed a plea in abatement seeking dismissal of the indictment on the ground, inter alia, that the foreman of the grand jury had been selected in a racially discriminatory.fashion. At a hearing on this plea, respondents called as witnesses 3 jury commissioners who testified only as to the selection of the grand jury venire; 2 former foremen who testified that they had never known of a Negro foreman, but were not questioned as to how long they had resided in the county; the current foreman, who stated he had no knowledge as to whether any Negro had ever served; and 11 of the 12 grand jurors (other than the foreman) who served when respondents were indicted, none of whom testified relative to selection of the foreman or the race of past foremen. The trial court denied the plea. Subsequently, respondents were convicted, and the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. Respondents then filed a habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court, which dismissed the petition, finding that respondents' prima facie case of discrimination in selecting the grand jury foreman was rebutted by the State. The Court of Appeals reversed.

[99 S.Ct. 2995] Held:

1. Claims of racial discrimination in the selection of members of a state grand jury are cognizable in federal habeas corpus and will support issuance of a writ setting aside a conviction and ordering the indictment quashed, notwithstanding that no constitutional impropriety tainted the selection of the petit jury and guilt was established beyond a reasonable doubt at a trial free from constitutional error. Pp. 550-564.

(a) Because discrimination on the basis of race in the selection of members of a grand jury strikes at fundamental values of our judicial system and our society as a whole, a criminal defendant's right to equal protection of the laws is denied when he is indicted by a grand jury from which members of a racial group have been purposefully excluded. Pp. 551-557.

(b) Such costs as exist in permitting a federal court to hear claims of racial discrimination in the selection of a grand jury when reviewing

Page 546

a state conviction are outweighed by the recognized policy of combatting racial discrimination in the administration of justice. Even though there are alternative remedies to vindicate the rights of those members of the class denied the chance to serve on grand juries, the fact is that permitting challenges to unconstitutional state action by defendants has been, and is, the main avenue by which Fourteenth Amendment rights are vindicated in this context. Pp. 557-559.

(c) The rationale of Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, in which it was held that, where the State has provided an opportunity for full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim at trial and on direct review, a state prisoner may not be granted federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that evidence obtained through an unconstitutional search and seizure was introduced at his trial, will not be extended to a claim of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury that indicts the habeas petitioner. This latter claim differs fundamentally from application on habeas of the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule. Such a claim concerns allegations that the trial court itself violated the Fourteenth Amendment in the operation of the grand jury system, whereas in Fourth Amendment cases, courts are called upon to evaluate the actions of the police in seizing evidence. Moreover, a claim of grand jury discrimination involves charges that state officials are violating the direct command of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and federal statutes passed thereunder, that "[n]o State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Federal habeas review is necessary to ensure that constitutional defects in the state judiciary's grand jury selection procedure are not overlooked by the very state judges who operate that system. Pp. 559-564.

2. As a matter of law, respondents failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause with regard to the selection of the grand jury foreman. Respondents' case rested entirely on the testimony of the two former foremen and the current foreman, since they were the only ones who testified at all about the selection of a foreman, and their testimony was insufficient to establish respondents' case. Absent evidence as to the total number of foremen appointed by the judges in the county during the critical period of time, it is difficult to say that the number of Negroes appointed foreman, even if zero, is statistically so significant as to make out a case of discrimination under the "rule of exclusion." Pp. 564-574.

570 F.2d 129, reversed and remanded.

Page 547

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined; in Parts I, III, and IV of which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined; and in Parts I and II of which WHITE and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a statement concurring in part, post, p. 574. STEWART, J., post, p. 574, and POWELL, J., post, p. 579, filed opinions concurring in the judgment, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined, post, p. 588. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part, post, p. 593.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

[99 S.Ct. 2996] MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court. *

In this federal habeas corpus case, respondents claim they were the victims of racial discrimination, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, in the selection of the foreman of the Tennessee grand jury that indicted them for murders in the first degree. As the case comes to this Court, no issue of discrimination in the selection of the venire is presented; we are concerned only with the selection of the foreman.

I

In November 1972, respondents James E. Mitchell and James Nichols, Jr., and two other men were jointly indicted by the grand jury of Tipton County, Tenn. The four were charged in two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of patrons during the robbery of

Page 548

a place known as White's Cafe.1 Prior to trial, respondents filed with the trial court a written pro se motion in the nature of a plea in abatement. App. 1. They sought thereby, together with other relief, the dismissal of the indictment on the grounds that the grand jury array, and the foreman, had been selected in a racially discriminatory fashion.2 Each respondent is a Negro.

Page 549

The court appointed counsel to represent respondents, and in due course conducted an evidentiary hearing on the plea in abatement. At that hearing, testimony on behalf of the respondents was taken from the 3 Tipton County jury commissioners; from 2 former Tipton County grand jury foremen; from the foreman of the grand jury serving at the time respondents were indicted; and from 11 of the 12 other members of that grand jury. The court clerk was a witness on behalf of the State. Id. at 3-35.

At the close of this evidence, the court denied the plea in abatement, first orally, and then by written order, without comment. Id. at 35 and 36.

Respondents were then tried jointly to a jury. A verdict of guilty of first-degree murder on each count was returned. Respondents received sentences of 60 years on each count, the sentences to run consecutively [99 S.Ct. 2997] with credit allowed for time spent in jail awaiting trial.

On appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee affirmed the convictions, finding, with respect to an assignment of error relating to the plea in abatement, that the "facts here do not demonstrate a systematic exclusion of Negroes upon racial grounds." Id. at 38-39. The Supreme Court of Tennessee denied certiorari. Id. at 42.

Respondents each then filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, id. at 43 52, 62-73, renewing, among other things, the allegation of discrimination in the selection of the Tipton County grand jury and its foreman. The District Court referred the petitions to a magistrate who, after reviewing the evidence introduced in the state court at the hearing on the plea in abatement and studying the method of selection, recommended that the court hold an evidentiary hearing on the grand jury and jury foreman selection issues. Specifically, the magistrate concluded that respondents had presented an unrebutted prima facie case

Page 550

with respect to. the selection of the foreman. Id. at 84, 90, 97. The District Court disagreed with the magistrate as to the grand jury, and concluded that the state judge had ruled correctly on that issue. On the foreman question, the District Court went along with the magistrate, and ordered the State to make further response. Id. at 98. The State then submitted affidavits from the acting foreman of the grand jury that indicted respondents and from the state trial judge who appointed the foreman. Id. at 102-106, 108-113. On the basis of these affidavits, the petitions were ordered dismissed. Id. at 121-122.

The District Judge, however, granted the certificate of probable cause required by Fed.Rule App. Proc. 22(b), App. 126-127, and respondents appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Court of Appeals reversed. 570 F.2d 129 (1978). That court deemed it unnecessary to resolve respondents' contentions concerning discrimination in the...

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511 practice notes
  • 149 N.E.3d 475 (Ohio 2020), 2016-1783, State v. Bates
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court of Ohio
    • February 27, 2020
    ...basis of race, odious in all aspects, is especially pernicious in the administration of justice." Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 555, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979). Racial bias "casts doubt on the integrity of the judicial process" and "impair......
  • State v. Williams, 112320 WACA, 79267-9-I
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals of Washington
    • November 23, 2020
    ...proceeding in doubt." Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 411, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991) (quoting Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 556, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3000, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979)). The burden is on the defendant who argues discrimination occurred during voir d......
  • 411 A.2d 118 (Md.App. 1980), 511, Johnson v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 13, 1980
    ...citations omitted.) 430 U.S. 482 at 494-95, 97 S.Ct. 1272 at 1280, 51 L.Ed.2d 498. This rule was recently affirmed in Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 565, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3005, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979). In Rose the Supreme Court found that under the Castaneda criteria the respondents had failed......
  • 138 Misc.2d 1081, People v. Gary M.
    • United States
    • March 10, 1988
    ...large, and to the democratic ideal reflected in the processes of our courts." (matter in brackets added; see, also, Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 556, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3000, supra ) The State as representative of the community has standing to complain about an injury to the community, ......
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485 cases
  • 149 N.E.3d 475 (Ohio 2020), 2016-1783, State v. Bates
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court of Ohio
    • February 27, 2020
    ...basis of race, odious in all aspects, is especially pernicious in the administration of justice." Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 555, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979). Racial bias "casts doubt on the integrity of the judicial process" and "impair......
  • State v. Williams, 112320 WACA, 79267-9-I
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals of Washington
    • November 23, 2020
    ...proceeding in doubt." Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 411, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991) (quoting Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 556, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3000, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979)). The burden is on the defendant who argues discrimination occurred during voir d......
  • 411 A.2d 118 (Md.App. 1980), 511, Johnson v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 13, 1980
    ...citations omitted.) 430 U.S. 482 at 494-95, 97 S.Ct. 1272 at 1280, 51 L.Ed.2d 498. This rule was recently affirmed in Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 565, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3005, 61 L.Ed.2d 739 (1979). In Rose the Supreme Court found that under the Castaneda criteria the respondents had failed......
  • 138 Misc.2d 1081, People v. Gary M.
    • United States
    • March 10, 1988
    ...large, and to the democratic ideal reflected in the processes of our courts." (matter in brackets added; see, also, Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 556, 99 S.Ct. 2993, 3000, supra ) The State as representative of the community has standing to complain about an injury to the community, ......
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  • SCOTUS Carves Out an Exception to the No-Impeachment Rule
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • November 30, 2017
    ...Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 411 (1991), and is "especially pernicious in the administration of justice," Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U.S. 545, 555 (1979). In its most recent Term, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the Constitution requires an exception to the no-impeach......
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