Vasquez v. Hillery

Decision Date14 January 1986
Docket NumberNo. 84-836,84-836
Citation88 L.Ed.2d 598,106 S.Ct. 617,474 U.S. 254
PartiesDaniel VASQUEZ, Warden, Petitioner v. Booker T. HILLERY, Jr
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

In 1962, a California grand jury indicted respondent for murder. Before trial in California Superior Court, the judge refused to quash the indictment on the alleged ground that it had been issued by a grand jury from which blacks had been systematically excluded. Respondent was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder. After unsuccessfully pursuing appeals and collateral relief in the state courts for the next 16 years, respondent filed a habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court, again raising his equal protection challenge to the grand jury that indicted him. The District Court upheld the challenge, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. Respondent's obligation to exhaust state remedies before seeking collateral relief in federal court was not circumvented by the fact that the District Court, pursuant to a valid exercise of its power to expand the record, directed the parties to present supplemental evidence (consisting of affidavits and a computer analysis assessing the mathematical possibility that chance or accident could have accounted for the exclusion of blacks from the grand jury), where such evidence did not fundamentally alter the claim already considered by the state courts. Pp. 257-260.

2. The longstanding rule requiring reversal of the conviction of a defendant indicted by a grand jury from which members of his own race were systematically excluded will not be abandoned in this case on the theory that discrimination in the grand jury amounted to harmless error and that respondent's conviction after a fair trial purged any taint attributable to the grand jury process. Intentional discrimination in the selection of grand jurors is a grave constitutional trespass, possible only under color of state authority, and wholly within the State's power to prevent. Even if the grand jury's determination of probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a crime is confirmed in hindsight by a conviction on the indicted offense, that confirmation does not suggest that discrimination did not impermissibly infect the framing of the indictment and, consequently, the nature or existence of the proceedings to come. And just as a conviction is void under the Equal Protection Clause if the prosecutor deliberately charged the defendant on account of his race, a conviction cannot be understood to cure the taint attributable to a grand jury selected on the basis of race. Pp. 260-264.

3. Sound jurisprudence counsels against adoption of a rule whereby the grant of federal habeas corpus relief to a state prisoner would be conditioned upon the passage of time between his conviction and the filing of the federal habeas corpus petition, depending upon the State's ability to obtain a second conviction. Pp. 264-265.

4. The decision in this case is supported, but not compelled, by the stare decisis doctrine, the means by which this Court ensures that the law will not merely change erratically but will develop in a principled and intelligible fashion. Pp. 265-266.

733 F.2d 644 (CA9 1984), affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in all but the sixth paragraph of Part III of which WHITE, J., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 266. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 267.

Wm. George Prahl, Sacramento, Cal., for petitioner.

Clifford Earl Tedmon, Sacramento, Cal., for respondent.

Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Warden of San Quentin State Prison asks this Court to retire a doctrine of equal protection jurisprudence first announced in 1880. The time has come, he urges, for us to abandon the rule requiring reversal of the conviction of any defendant indicted by a grand jury from which members of his own race were systematically excluded.


In 1962, the grand jury of Kings County, California, indicted respondent, Booker T. Hillery, for a brutal murder. Before trial in Superior Court, respondent moved to quash the indictment on the ground that it had been issued by a grand jury from which blacks had been systematically excluded. A hearing on respondent's motion was held by Judge Meredith Wingrove, who was the sole Superior Court Judge in the county and had personally selected all grand juries, including the one that indicted respondent, for the previous seven years. Absolving himself of any discriminatory intent, Judge Wingrove refused to quash the indictment.1 Respondent was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder.

For the next 16 years, respondent pursued appeals and collateral relief in the state courts, raising at every opportunity his equal protection challenge to the grand jury that indicted him.2 Less than one month after the California Supreme Court foreclosed his final avenue of state relief in 1978, respondent filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court, raising that same challenge. The District Court concluded that respondent had established discrimination in the grand jury, and granted the writ. See Hillery v. Pulley, 563 F.Supp. 1228 (ED Cal.1983). The Court of Appeals affirmed, 733 F.2d 644 (CA9 1984), and we granted certiorari, 470 U.S. 1026, 105 S.Ct. 1390, 84 L.Ed.2d 780 (1985).


As a threshold matter, we turn to petitioner's contention that respondent has circumvented his obligation to exhaust state remedies before seeking collateral relief in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). The exhaustion issue had its genesis in this case when the Federal District Judge saw a need to "supplement and clarify" the state-court record presented for review. Record, Doc. No. 8, p. 2. Upon authority of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 7, the judge directed the State to provide more figures "demonstrating what portion of the Black population in Kings County was eligible for grand jury service." Record, Doc. No. 8, p. 3. He also directed the parties to present their views regarding the application of statistical probability analysis to the facts of this case, to assist him in "focus[ing] on the likelihood that chance or accident alone could account for the exclusion of a group from grand jury service." Ibid. Petitioner objects that the submissions made in response to the judge's order "drastically" altered respondent's claim and rendered it unsuitable for federal habeas review without prior consideration by the state courts. Brief for Petitioner 81.

The exhaustion doctrine seeks to afford the state courts a meaningful opportunity to consider allegations of legal error without interference from the federal judiciary. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 515, 102 S.Ct. 1198, 1201, 71 L.Ed.2d 379 (1982). Under standards established by this Court, a state prisoner may initiate a federal habeas petition "[o]nly if the state courts have had the first opportunity to hear the claim sought to be vindicated. . . ." Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 276, 92 S.Ct. 509, 512, 30 L.Ed.2d 438 (1971). "It follows, of course, that once the federal claim has been fairly presented to the state courts, the exhaustion requirement is satisfied." Id., at 275, 92 S.Ct., at 512; see also Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504, 516-517, n. 18, 92 S.Ct. 1048, 1055-56 n. 18, 31 L.Ed.2d 394 (1972). We have never held that presentation of additional facts to the district court, pursuant to that court's directions, evades the exhaustion requirement when the prisoner has presented the substance of his claim to the state courts. See Picard, supra, 404 U.S. at 278, 92 S.Ct. at 513.

Rule 7(b) permits a federal district court in a habeas proceeding to expand the existing record to "include, without limitation, . . . documents, exhibits, and answers under oath, if so directed, to written interrogatories propounded by the judge. Affidavits may be submitted and considered as a part of the record." In this case, the District Court sought to clarify the relevant facts, an endeavor wholly consistent with Rule 7 and the purpose of the writ. See Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 313, 83 S.Ct. 745, 757, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963). The sole question here is whether this valid exercise of the court's power to expand the record had the effect of undermining the policies of the exhaustion requirement.

Several affidavits challenged here as "new" evidence supported respondent's allegations that no black had ever served on the grand jury in Kings County and that qualified blacks in the county were available to serve, which he had pressed in his pretrial motion to quash in Superior Court, App. 28-30, and throughout the state proceedings. The California Supreme Court found that the total absence of blacks from the grand jury in the history of Kings County was an undisputed fact. People v. Hillery, 62 Cal.2d 692, 709, 44 Cal.Rptr. 30, 42, 401 P.2d 382, 392 (1965), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 938 (1967). That fact was entitled, therefore, to a presumption of correctness on federal review. Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 545-546, 101 S.Ct. 764, 768, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981); see Hillery v. Pulley, 533 F.Supp. 1189, 1201, n. 25 (ED Cal.1982). The California Supreme Court also discussed Judge Wingrove's consideration of blacks' qualifications, and found that blacks had served as petit jurors, 62 Cal.2d, at 710, 44 Cal.Rptr., at 42-43, 401 P.2d, at 392-393, minimum eligibility requirements for which were substantially the same as for grand jurors, see 563 F.Supp., at 1245; Mar, The California Grand Jury: Vestige of Aristocracy, 1 Pac.L.J. 36, 40 (1970). Consequently, the additional affidavits introduced no claim upon which the state courts had not passed.

The remaining "new" evidence under attack, a computer analysis submitted in response to the District Court's request, assessed the mathematical...

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