Swain v. State of Alabama, 64

Citation85 S.Ct. 824,13 L.Ed.2d 759,380 U.S. 202
Decision Date08 March 1965
Docket NumberNo. 64,64
PartiesRobert SWAIN, Petitioner, v. STATE OF ALABAMA
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Mrs. Constance B. Motley, New York City, for petitioner.

Leslie Hall, Montgomery, Ala., for respondent.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner, Robert Swain, a Negro, was indicted and convicted of rape in the Circuit Court of Talladega County, Alabama, and sentenced to death. His motions to quash the indictment, to strike the trial jury venire and to declare void the petit jury chosen in the case, all based on alleged invidious discrimination in the selection of jurors, were denied. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, 275 Ala. 508, 156 So.2d 368, and we granted certiorari, 377 U.S. 915, 84 S.Ct. 1183, 12 L.Ed.2d 185.

In support of his claims, petitioner invokes the constitutional principle announced in 1880 in Strauder v. State of West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 25 L.Ed. 664, where the Court struck down a state statute qualifying only white people for jury duty. Such a statute was held to contravene the central purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment: 'exemption from unfriendly legislation against (Negroes) distinctively as colored,—exemption from legal discriminations, implying inferiority in civil society, lessening the security of their enjoyment of the rights which others enjoy * * *.' 100 U.S., at 308. Although a Negro defendant is not entitled to a jury containing members of his race, a State's pur- poseful or deliberate denial to Negroes on account of race of participation as jurors in the administration of justice violates the Equal Protection Clause. Ex parte State of Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 25 L.Ed. 676; Gibson v. State of Mississippi, 162 U.S. 565, 16 S.Ct. 904, 40 L.Ed. 1075. This principle was further elaborated in Carter v. State of Texas, 177 U.S. 442, 447, 20 S.Ct. 687, 689, 44 L.Ed. 839, where, in respect to exclusion from grand juries, the Court said:

'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 * * *.'

And it has been consistently and repeatedly applied in many cases coming before this Court.1 The principle of these cases is broadly based.

'For racial discrimination to result in the exclusion from jury service of otherwise qualified groups not only violates our Constitution and the laws enacted under it but is at war with our basic concepts of a democratic society and a representative government.' Smith v. State of Texas, 311 U.S. 128, 130, 61 S.Ct. 164, 165, 85 L.Ed. 84.

Further, '(j)urymen should be selected as individuals, on the basis of individual qualifications, and not as members of a race.' Cassell v. State of Texas, 339 U.S. 282, 286, 70 S.Ct. 629, 631, 94 L.Ed. 839 (opinion of Mr. Justice Reed, announcing judgment). Nor is the constitutional command forbidding intentional exclusion limited to Negroes. It applies to any identifiable group in the community which may be the subject of prejudice. Hernandez v. State of Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866.

But purposeful discrimination may not be assumed or merely asserted. Brownfield v. State of South Carolina, 189 U.S. 426, 23 S.Ct. 513, 47 L.Ed. 882; Tarrance v. State of Florida, 188 U.S. 519, 23 S.Ct. 402, 47 L.Ed. 572; Smith v. State of Mississippi, 162 U.S. 592, 16 S.Ct. 900, 40 L.Ed. 1082; Bush v. Com. of Kentucky, 107 U.S. 110, 1 S.Ct. 625, 27 L.Ed. 354. It must be proven, Tarrance v. State of Florida, supra; Martin v. State of Texas, 200 U.S. 316, 26 S.Ct. 338, 50 L.Ed. 497, the quantum of proof necessary being a matter of federal law. Norris v. State of Alabama, 294 U.S. 587, 55 S.Ct. 579, 79 L.Ed. 1074; Smith v. State of Texas, 311 U.S. 128, 61 S.Ct. 164, 85 L.Ed. 84. It is not the soundness of these principles, which is unquestioned, but their scope and application to the issues in this case that concern us here.

I.

We consider first petitioner's claims concerning the selection of grand jurors and the petit jury venire. The evidence was that while Negro males over 21 constitute 26% of all males in the county in this age group, only 10 to 15% of the grand and petit jury panels drawn from the jury box since 1953 have been Negroes, there having been only one case in which the percentage was as high as 23%. In this period of time, Negroes served on 80% of the grand juries selected, the number ranging from one to three. There were four or five Negroes on the grand jury panel of about 33 in this case, out of which two served on the grand jury which indicted petitioner. Although there has been an average of six to seven Negroes on petit jury venires in criminal cases, no Negro has actually served on a petit jury since about 1950. In this case there were eight Negroes on the petit jury venire but none actually served, two being exempt and six being struck by the prosecutor in the process of selecting the jury.

It is wholly obvious that Alabama has not totally excluded a racial group from either grand or petit jury panels, as was the case in Norris v. State of Alabama, 294 U.S. 587, 55 S.Ct. 579, 79 L.Ed. 1074; Hill v. State of Texas, 316 U.S. 400, 62 S.Ct. 1159, 86 L.Ed. 1559; Patton v. State of Mississippi, 332 U.S. 463, 68 S.Ct. 184, 92 L.Ed. 76; Hernandez v. State of Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866; and Reece v. State of Georgia, 350 U.S. 85, 76 S.Ct. 167, 100 L.Ed. 77. Moreover, we do not consider an average of six to eight Negroes on these panels as constituting forbidden token inclusion within the meaning of the cases in this Court. Thomas v. State of Texas, 212 U.S. 278, 29 S.Ct. 393, 53 L.Ed. 512; Akins v. State of Texas, 325 U.S. 398, 65 S.Ct. 1276, 89 L.Ed. 1692; Avery v. State of Georgia, 345 U.S. 559, 73 S.Ct. 891, 97 L.Ed. 1244. Nor do we consider the evidence in this case to make out a prima facie case of invidious discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Alabama law requires that the three jury commissioners in Talladega County place on the jury roll all male citizens in the community over 21 who are reputed to be honest, intelligent men and are esteemed for their integrity, good character and sound judgment. Ala.Code, Tit. 30, §§ 20, 21 (1958).2 In practice, however, the commissioners do not place on the roll all such citizens, either white or colored.3 A typical jury roll at best contains about 2,500 names, out of a total male population over 21, according to the latest census, of 16,406 persons. Each commissioner, with the clerk's assistance, produces for the jury list names of persons who in his judgment are qualified. The sources are city directories, registration lists, club and church lists, conversations with other persons in the community, both white and colored, and personal and business acquaintances.4 Venires drawn from the jury box made up in this manner unquestionably contained a smaller proportion of the Negro community than of the white community. But a defendant in a criminal case is not constitutionally entitled to demand a proportionate number of his race on the jury which tries him nor on the venire or jury roll from which petit jurors are drawn. State of Virginia v. Rives, 100 U.S. 313, 322—323, 25 L.Ed. 667; Gibson v. State of Mississippi, 162 U.S. 565, 16 S.Ct. 904, 40 L.Ed. 1075; Thomas v. State of Texas, 212 U.S. 278, 282, 29 S.Ct. 393, 394, 53 L.Ed. 512; Cassell v. State of Texas, 339 U.S. 282, 70 S.Ct. 629, 94 L.Ed. 839. Neither the jury roll nor the venire need be a perfect mirror of the community or accurately reflect the proportionate strength of every identifiable group. 'Obviously the number of races and nationalities appearing in the ancestry of our citizens would make it impossible to meet a requirement of proportional representation. Similarly, since there can be no exclusion of Negroes as a race and no discrimination because of color, proportional limitation is not permissible.' Cassell v. State of Texas, 339 U.S. 282, 286—287, 70 S.Ct. 629, 631—632 (opinion of Mr. Justice Reed, announcing judgment). We cannot say that purposeful discrimination based on race alone is satisfactorily proved by showing that an identifiable group in a community is underrepresented by as much as 10%. See Thomas v. State of Texas, 212 U.S. 278, 283, 29 S.Ct. 393, 394, 53 L.Ed. 512; Akins v. State of Texas, 325 U.S. 398, 65 S.Ct. 1276, 89 L.Ed. 1692; Cassell v. State of Texas, 339 U.S. 282, 70 S.Ct. 629, 94 L.Ed. 839. Here the commissioners denied that racial considerations entered into their selections of either their contacts in the community or the names of prospective jurors. There is no evidence that the commissioners applied different standards of qualifications to the Negro community than they did to the white community. Nor was there any meaningful attempt to demonstrate that the same proportion of Negroes qualified under the standards being administered by the commissioners. It is not clear from the record that the commissioners even knew how many Negroes were in their respective areas, or on the jury roll or on the venires drawn from the jury box. The overall percentage disparity has been small, and reflects no studied attempt to include or exclude a specified number of Negroes. Undoubtedly the selection of prospective jurors was somewhat haphazard and little effort was made to ensure that all groups in the community were fully represented. But an imperfect system is not equivalent to purposeful discrimination based on race.5 We do not think that the burden of proof was carried by petitioner in this case.

II.

Petitioner makes a further claim relating to the exercise of peremptory challenges to exclude Negroes from serving on petit juries.

In Talladega...

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