Hernandez v. Texas

PETITIONER: Pete Hernandez
RESPONDENT: Texas
LOCATION:

DOCKET NO.: 406
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1953-1954)
LOWER COURT: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

ARGUED: Jan 11, 1954
DECIDED: May 03, 1954

ADVOCATES:
Carlos C. Cadena - for the petitioner
Gus C. Garcia - for the petitioner
Horace Wimberly - for the respondent

Facts of the case

Pete Hernandez, an agricultural worker, was indicted for the murder of Joe Espinoza by an all-Anglo (white) grand jury in Jackson County, Texas. Claiming that Mexican-Americans were barred from the jury commission that selected juries, and from petit juries, Hernandez' attorneys tried to quash the indictment. Moreover, Hernandez tried to quash the petit jury panel called for service, because persons of Mexican descent were excluded from jury service in this case. A Mexican-American had not served on a jury in Jackson County in over 25 years and thus, Hernandez claimed that Mexican ancestry citizens were discriminated against as a special class in Jackson County. The trial court denied the motions. Hernandez was found guilty of murder and sentenced by the all-Anglo jury to life in prison. In affirming, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that "Mexicans are...members of and within the classification of the white race as distinguished from members of the Negro Race" and rejected the petitioners' argument that they were a "special class" under the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, the court pointed out that "so far as we are advised, no member of the Mexican nationality" challenged this classification as white or Caucasian.

Question

Is it a denial of the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause to try a defendant of a particular race or ethnicity before a jury where all persons of his race or ancestry have, because of that race or ethnicity, been excluded by the state?