Holland v. Illinois

LOCATION: Circuit Court for Howard County

DOCKET NO.: 88-5050
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 493 US 474 (1990)
ARGUED: Oct 11, 1989
DECIDED: Jan 22, 1990

Donald S. Honchell - on behalf of Petitioner
Inge Fryklund - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Holland v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 1989 in Holland v. Illinois

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 22, 1990 in Holland v. Illinois

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 88-5050, Holland against Illinois will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court of Illinois which upheld the petitioner’s conviction of aggravated kidnapping, rape, deviant sexual assault, and armed robbery.

The preliminary question it presents is whether a white criminal defendant has standing to contest the preemptory challenge of blacks from his jury as a violation of the Sixth Amendment.

Our previous cases established that every criminal defendant has standing under the Sixth Amendment to object to the selection of his jury from a venire from the jury pool that is not designed to represent a fair-cross-section of the community.

Although this petitioner seeks to extend the fair-cross-section requirement from the venire to the petit jury itself, that does not affect his standing to press his claim so we hold that he does have standing.

While agreeing with him on the standing point, however, we do not agree with his position on the merits that the Sixth Amendment’s fair-cross-section requirement applies to the petit jury as opposed to the venire.

The text of the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants a right not to a representative jury but to an impartial jury.

At the venire stage, the fair-cross-section requirement is necessary to achieve that end.

Without such a requirement, the state would be able to draw up jury lists so as to produce a pool of perspective jurors disproportionately ill-disposed against one or all classes of defendants stacking the decks, sort of speak, in the state’s favor.

The fair-cross-section venire requirement thus, assures that in selecting the jury, the prosecution and the defendant will compete on an equal basis.

Extending the fair-cross-section requirement to the petit jury, however, would undermine rather than further the Sixth Amendment’s goal of impartiality because it would cripple the institution of preemptory challenges.

Preemptory challenges enable each side to exclude those jurors it believes will be most partial to the other side.

Although petitioner’s objection in the present case relates to the striking of blacks, the Sixth Amendment claim, as opposed to a Fourteenth Amendment claim which was not presented here, would be just as strong if he had objected to the exclusion of any number of other identifiable groups, postmen or lawyers or clergymen.

Preventing such generalizations in that preemptory challenge process would obviously destroy an institution.

That institution was part of the traditional understanding of how an impartial jury was composed at the time the Sixth Amendment was adapted, and therefore, any theory of the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury that would affectively forbid the use of preemptory challenges is implausible.

In this Court, the petitioner raised only a Sixth Amendment claim.

Thus, we do not hold that the systematic exclusion of blacks from petit juries to preemptory challenges is lawful under the Equal Protection Clause, it obviously is not.

Nor do we hold that this white defendant does not have a valid constitutional challenge to such racial exclusion of blacks under the Fourteenth Amendment.

All that we do hold is that he does not have a valid constitutional challenge based on the Sixth Amendment.

The judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court is therefore affirmed.

Justice Kennedy has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Brennan and Blackmun have joined; Justice Stevens has also filed a dissenting opinion.