Alexander v. Louisiana

LOCATION: Patuxent Institution

DOCKET NO.: 70-5026
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Louisiana Supreme Court

CITATION: 405 US 625 (1972)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1971 / Dec 07, 1971
DECIDED: Apr 03, 1972

Bertrand De Blanc - for respondent
Bertrand Deblanc -
Charles Stephen Ralston - for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Alexander v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1971 in Alexander v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1971 in Alexander v. Louisiana

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Number 5026, Alexander against Louisiana.

Mr. Ralston you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Charles Stephen Ralston:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

I represent the petitioner, Claude (ph) Alexander in this case which is here on the petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Louisiana to review the affirmance of petitioner’s conviction of rape.

The petitioner is a black male who was convicted in Lafayette Parish in Louisiana and he raised in the State Courts and raises here three constitutional challenges to his indictment and his conviction.

First, he urges that members of his race were unconstitutionally excluded from the jury list and the venire from which the grand jury that indicted him was selected.

Secondly, he urges that the total exclusion of women from the service from jury list, and therefore, from service on juries in the parish also denied him due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

And finally, he urges that the use at his trial of a statement which was taken without compliance the requirements of Miranda versus Arizona denied him Due Process of law.

With regard to the first contention, the exclusion of blacks from jury, we urge basically that petitioner clearly established a prima facie case of jury discrimination within the rule of the series of cases beginning with Avery versus Georgia and proceeding to Whitus versus Georgia and the cases that followed Whitus and I will return to briefly discuss why we urge that there is a clear prima facie case.

Therefore, the issue really in this case is whether the state has offered a satisfactory rebuttal to that prima facie case.

In other words, has the state given a constitutionally satisfactory explanation to a situation where a disproportion of black representation on juries has been shown wherein the jury selection process racial designations were before the jury commissioners when they selected the persons who were to be on the jury list?

In getting to why a clear prima facie case has been made out, briefly, the evidence introduced in the motion to quash the indictment in the Court below showed that there is a significant draw up in the proportion of blacks on the rolls or on the group of persons who were being considered for jury service during stages in the jury selection process when the commissioners were working from documents on which there appeared racial designation.

The jury commission was operating under Louisiana Statute which required that jury venires from at least 300 persons be made up.

In this particular instance in Lafayette Parish, they went above the minimum and established venires of 400 persons.

The Louisiana Statute did not set out the procedure by which these 400 persons are to be arrived at.

They do set out qualifications for jurors and certain exemptions, which are mostly exemptions based on occupation and physical disability.

Jury commissioners worked from a number of sources of names as a starting point to achieve the final 400.

The main source was voter registration list, a city directory which covered the City of Lafayette itself, telephone directory and certain other lists which are not fully specified.

Initially there was an objection raised because these lists or at least certain of them, the voter registration list and the telephone directory were not admittedly fully representative of the black community.

That is there is a disproportion of black representations compared to the black -- to the white disproportion and we urge that this is one basis why the jury selection method violated the constitution.

However, when these lists were used, the jury commissioners mailed out to prospective jurors, a total of 11,000 questionnaires and received back approximately 7,300.

Now, of those 7,300, 13.67% were from blacks, and this is in a population -- this is black males over 21, that is, this is in a population where black males over 21 represented 20.27% of the population.

On the questionnaires there was a request for the race of the person returning the questionnaire and this was filled in all, but 189 of the questionnaires.

A card was made up, which also had a racial designation.

These 7,000 questionnaires were then gone through -- through process of -- the commissioners say weeding out those who were not qualified or who might claim exemptions from the service until approximately 2,000 questionnaires were arrived at.

There is no evidence in this record as to the racial composition of that 2,000.

However, the 2,000 were then put on a table and from those 2,000 were selected 400, a white set of paper having just the name and address of the person, each of the 400 persons was put into a box from which 20-man grand jury venires would be drawn.

In the particular instance of petitioner of those 20, one was black and he was not picked when the final 12-man venire was picked or selected from the 20.

Now, of those 400 names at the end of the selection process, the portion of blacks was down to approximately 6.75% and it is this –- this proportion together with the fact that at the time in the process when an overall population of more than 13% was being examined.

There were racial designations on the documents used.