Hernandez v. State of Texas, No. 406

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWARREN
PartiesHERNANDEZ v. STATE OF TEXAS
Decision Date03 May 1954
Docket NumberNo. 406

347 U.S. 475
74 S.Ct. 667
98 L.Ed. 866
HERNANDEZ

v.

STATE OF TEXAS.

No. 406.
Argued Jan. 11, 1954.
Decided May 3, 1954.

Messrs.

Page 476

Carlos C. Cadena, San Antonio, Tex., Gus C. Garcia, for petitioner.

Mr. Horace Wimberly, Yoakum, Tex., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner, Pete Hernandez, was indicted for the murder of one Joe Espinosa by a grand jury in Jackson County, Texas. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. 251 S.W.2d 531. Prior to the trial, the petitioner, by his counsel, offered timely motions to quash the indictment and the jury panel. He alleged that persons of Mexican descent were systematically excluded from service as jury commissioners,1 grand jurors, and petit jurors, although there were such persons fully

Page 477

qualified to serve residing in Jackson County. The petitioner asserted that exclusion of this class deprived him, as a member of the class, of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motions. At the trial, the motions were renewed, further evidence taken, and the motions again denied. An allegation that the trial court erred in denying the motions was the sole basis of petitioner's appeal. In affirming the judgment of the trial court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals considered and passed upon the substantial federal question raised by the petitioner. We granted a writ of certiorari to review that decision. 346 U.S. 811, 74 S.Ct. 52.

In numerous decisions, this Court has held that it is a denial of the equal protection of the laws to try a defendant of a particular race or color under an indictment issued by a grand jury, or before a petit jury, from which all persons of his race or color have, solely because of that race or color, been excluded by the State, whether acting through its legislature, its courts, or its executive or administrative officers.2 Although the Court has had little occasion to rule on the question directly, it has been recognized since Strauder v. State of West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 25 L.Ed. 664, that the exclusion of a class of persons from jury service on grounds other than race or color may also deprive a defendant who is a member of that class of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.3 The State of Texas would have us hold that there are only two classes—white and Negro within the contemplation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decisions of this Court

Page 478

do not support that view.4 And, except where the question presented involves the exclusion of persons of Mexican descent from juries,5 Texas courts have taken a broader view of the scope of the equal protection clause. 6

Throughout our history differences in race and color have defined easily identifiable groups which have at times required the aid of the courts in securing equal treatment under the laws. But community prejudices are not static, and from time to time other differences from the community norm may define other groups which need the same protection. Whether such a group exists within a community is a question of fact. When the existence of a distinct class is demonstrated, and it is further shown that the laws, as written or as applied, single out that class for different treatment not based on some reasonable classification, the guarantees of the Constitution have been violated. The Fourteenth Amendment is not directed solely against discrimination due to a 'two-class theory'—that is, based upon differences between 'white' and Negro.

As the petitioner acknowledges, the Texas system of selecting grand and petit jurors by the use of jury commissions is fair on its face and capable of being utilized

Page 479

without discrimination.7 But as this Court has held, the system is susceptible to abuse and can be employed in a discriminatory manner.8 The exclusion of otherwise eligible persons from jury service solely because of their ancestry or national origin is discrimination prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Texas statute makes no such discrimination, but the petitioner alleges that those administering the law do.

The petitioner's initial burden in substantiating his charge of group discrimination was to prove that persons of Mexican descent constitute a separate class in Jackson County, distinct from 'whites.'9 One method by which this may be demonstrated is by showing the attitude of the community. Here the testimony of responsible officials and citizens contained the admission that residents of the community distinguished between 'white' and 'Mexican.' The participation of persons of Mexican descent in business and community groups was shown to be slight. Until very recent times, children of Mexican descent were required to attend a segregated school for the first four grades.10 At least one restaurant in town prominently displayed a sign announcing 'No Mexicans Served.' On the courthouse grounds at the time of the

Page 480

hearing, there were two men's toilets, one unmarked, and the other marked 'Colored Men' and 'Hombres Aqui' ('Men Here'). No substantial evidence was offered to rebut the logical inference to be drawn from these facts, and it must be concluded that petitioner succeeded in his proof.

Having established the existence of a class, petitioner was then charged with the burden of proving discrimination. To do so, he relied on the pattern of proof established by Norris v. State of Alabama, 294 U.S. 587, 55 S.Ct. 579, 584, 79 L.Ed. 1074. In that case, proof that Negroes constituted a substantial segment of the population of the jurisdiction, that some Negroes were...

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611 practice notes
  • Barber v. Ponte, No. 84-1750
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • September 18, 1985
    ...has grounded the requirement of a jury drawn from a cross-section of the community on the equal protection clause, Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 476-82, 74 S.Ct. 667, 669-72, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954); Strauder v. West Virginia, 10 Otto 303, 100 U.S. 303, 307-10, 25 L.Ed. 664 (1879), the supe......
  • Hobby v. United States, No. 82-2140
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 2, 1984
    ...to grand and petit juries. See, e.g., Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 97 S.Ct. 1272, 51 L.Ed.2d 498 (1977); Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954); Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 25 L.Ed. 664 (1880). Petitioner, however, has alleged only that the e......
  • Ramseur v. Beyer, No. 90-5333
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 31, 1992
    ..."substantial underrepresentation." See Jones v. Georgia, 389 U.S. 24, 25, 88 S.Ct. 4, 5, 19 L.Ed.2d 25 (1967) (15.7%); Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 480-81, 74 S.Ct. 667, 671-72, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954) (14.0%); Stephens v. Cox, 449 F.2d 657, 659-60 (4th Cir.1971) Ramseur's evidence of a co......
  • U.S. v. Cecil, Nos. 83-5148
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • February 5, 1988
    ...In denying the challenge, the court said (Page 168): Persons of Mexican descent may constitute such a class. Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954). However, such systematic exclusion must be proven; it will not be presumed. [citing cases] The defendant must sho......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
605 cases
  • Barber v. Ponte, No. 84-1750
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • September 18, 1985
    ...has grounded the requirement of a jury drawn from a cross-section of the community on the equal protection clause, Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 476-82, 74 S.Ct. 667, 669-72, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954); Strauder v. West Virginia, 10 Otto 303, 100 U.S. 303, 307-10, 25 L.Ed. 664 (1879), the supe......
  • Hobby v. United States, No. 82-2140
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 2, 1984
    ...to grand and petit juries. See, e.g., Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 97 S.Ct. 1272, 51 L.Ed.2d 498 (1977); Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954); Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 25 L.Ed. 664 (1880). Petitioner, however, has alleged only that the e......
  • Ramseur v. Beyer, No. 90-5333
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • December 31, 1992
    ..."substantial underrepresentation." See Jones v. Georgia, 389 U.S. 24, 25, 88 S.Ct. 4, 5, 19 L.Ed.2d 25 (1967) (15.7%); Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 480-81, 74 S.Ct. 667, 671-72, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954) (14.0%); Stephens v. Cox, 449 F.2d 657, 659-60 (4th Cir.1971) Ramseur's evidence of a co......
  • U.S. v. Cecil, Nos. 83-5148
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • February 5, 1988
    ...In denying the challenge, the court said (Page 168): Persons of Mexican descent may constitute such a class. Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954). However, such systematic exclusion must be proven; it will not be presumed. [citing cases] The defendant must sho......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court Rulings in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger: The Brave New World of Affirmative Action in the 21st Century
    • United States
    • Public Personnel Management Nbr. 36-1, March 2007
    • March 1, 2007
    ...Forbidden Grounds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.13 Amend. IV § 1.14 100 U.S. 303 (1879).15 Id. at 307.16 Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954).17 Board of Education v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994).18 United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 727 (1996).19 Grutter at 324.20 Ibid.21 Hir......
  • The Warren Court - After Three Terms
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 9-4, December 1956
    • December 1, 1956
    ...escape the impression that the results in these two cases, as well as 15 Adams v. Maryland, 347 U.S. 179 (1954); Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954); Leyra v. Denno, 347 U.S. 556 (1954). 16 Salsburg v. Maryland, 346 U.S. 545 (1954), and Irvine v. California, 347 U.S. 128 (1954).17 Unite......
  • Book Review: The evolution of the juvenile court: Race, politics, and the criminalizing of juvenile justice
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 46-3, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...The evolution of the juvenile court: Race, politics, and the criminalizing of juvenile justice.New York: NYU Press.Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954).Mendez v. Westminster, 64 F. Supp. 544 (S.D. Cal. 1946).Nellis, A. (2016). The color of justice: Racial and ethnic disparity in state pr......
  • Book Review: Solitary: The inside story of supermax isolation and how we can abolish it
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Review Nbr. 46-3, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...The evolution of the juvenile court: Race, politics, and the criminalizing of juvenile justice.New York: NYU Press.Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954).Mendez v. Westminster, 64 F. Supp. 544 (S.D. Cal. 1946).Nellis, A. (2016). The color of justice: Racial and ethnic disparity in state pr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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