Bostick v. South Carolina

RESPONDENT: South Carolina
LOCATION: Samuel Spevack's Office

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 386 US 479 (1967)
ARGUED: Mar 20, 1967
DECIDED: Mar 27, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Bostick v. South Carolina

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 20, 1967 in Bostick v. South Carolina

Earl Warren:

Number 647, Louis Bostick, Petitioner, versus South Carolina et al.

Mr. Perry.

Matthew J. Perry:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of South Carolina.

Petitioner, Louis Bostick was convicted of murder during the February, 1962 term of the Court of General Sessions for Jasper County, South Carolina.

The Supreme Court of South Carolina later affirmed that has conviction and sentence of death.

Thereafter, petitioner filed in the Court of Common Pleas for Richmond County, South Carolina has petitioned for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that the grand jury which indicted him and the trial jury which convicted him were so conveying as to systematically exclude there from members of the Negro race of which race the petitioner is a member.

The evidence presented on this question is perhaps somewhat brief but we think sustains the allegation that there is in fact discrimination shown by the record here that a prima facie case of discrimination has been set forth.

That evidence is that for a period described variously by the witnesses ranging from eight to nine years, only one Negro in the memory of the various witnesses had been called to serve on the grand jury of that county.

The evidence also is that in 1962 at which time this indictment was returned, there were 947 qualified male electors in Jasper County, who were white, and that there 246 qualified Negro male electors.

In South Carolina, jury lists are made up from the list of qualified male electors.

Byron R. White:

How are they made up?

Matthew J. Perry:

They're selected pursuant to the South Carolina constitutional provision that qualified male electors that is to say males over the age of 21 and less than the age of 65.

Byron R. White:

It doesn't contain how it directly chose physically, how they select the names from the registered voters list?

It is the voters list?

Matthew J. Perry:

That is correct, sir.

Byron R. White:

How do they go about that?

Do you know?

Matthew J. Perry:

Well, the testimony of the clerk of court Mr. Sensenbach set forth at various places in the record and particularly on pages 66, etcetera --

Byron R. White:

Now, it doesn't -- it -- they never get around to say how exactly how they do it?

Matthew J. Perry:

Oh, yes.

Well, may I refer you Mr. Justice White then to the opinion of the Supreme Court of South Carolina which I believe sets forth more succinctly the manner in which the juries are convened in that state, set forth that page 118.

Byron R. White:

But now they have a list of registered voters, what mechanical process -- what process do they go through to actually select the -- a portion of the male electors from that registered voters list?

Matthew J. Perry:

Once a year, that is to say, in the month of December of each year, the jury commission which is comprised of the clerk of court, the treasurer and the auditor of each county convene themselves for the purpose of selecting the grand jury, the grand jury for the ensuing year, and prior to the beginning of each term of Court during the course of the year.

The jury commission likewise convenes for the purpose of selecting the various venires.

During that December meeting of the jury commission, they take from the registration roles of each county a certain --

Byron R. White:

They actually have roles before them?

Matthew J. Perry:

That is correct.

Byron R. White:

With the names on it and their addresses?

Matthew J. Perry:

Yes, sir.