Duren v. Missouri

LOCATION:Circuit Court of Jackson County

DOCKET NO.: 77-6067
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Missouri

CITATION: 439 US 357 (1979)
ARGUED: Nov 01, 1978
DECIDED: Jan 09, 1979
GRANTED: May 01, 1978

Ruth Bader Ginsburg – for the petitioner
Lee M. Nation – argued the cause for the petitioner
Nanette Laughrey – argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

A jury convicted Billy Duren of first degree murder and first degree robbery. Duren alleged that the selection of this jury violated his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to a trial by a jury chosen from a fair cross section of the community. Specifically, Jackson County allowed an automatic exemption from jury service for women upon request. While women made up 54% of the population in the Jackson County, only 26.7% of people summoned from the jury wheel were women. Defendant had an all-male jury selected from a panel of 48 men and 5 women. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, questioning the validity of Duren’s statistics. The court also held that even if women were disproportionally excluded from jury service, the amount of women who participated in the process was well above constitutional standards.


Does Jackson County’s practice of automatically exempting women from jury duty on request violate the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees to a trial by a jury chosen from a fair cross section of the community?

Media for Duren v. Missouri

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 01, 1978 in Duren v. Missouri

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 09, 1979 in Duren v. Missouri

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 77-6067, Duren against Missouri will be announced by Mr. Justice White.

Byron R. White:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Missouri to review a judgment of that Court affirming a — the conviction of petitioner, Duren, for first-degree murder.

Under the Missouri law, women are eligible for jury duty and are subject to call, but they are — but they are entitled to an automatic exemption upon their request, no similar excuse is available to men.

Duren claims that his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to a trial by a jury representing a fair cross-section of the community is violated by the scheme.

The Missouri Supreme Court rejected the — the submission, we reversed.

As we explain in an opinion on file with the clerk, this case is ruled by Taylor against Louisiana and decided a few terms ago and under that case and under the constitution the Missouri selection scheme is invalid, and hence, we reversed the judgments of Missouri Supreme Court.

And Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice White.