Payne v. Arkansas

LOCATION: Alabama State Capitol

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 356 US 560 (1958)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1958
DECIDED: May 19, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Payne v. Arkansas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1958 in Payne v. Arkansas

Wiley A. Branton:

-- The Supreme Court of the State of Arkansas, the defendant Frank Andrew Payne is or rather was at the time of the alleged commission of the crime a 19-year-old Negro youth, was tried for a charge of murder in the first degree in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Arkansas.

He was convicted of that crime in Jefferson County, took an appeal to the Supreme Court of Arkansas where the conviction was affirmed and this Court has granted certiorari to the petitioner to hear or to determine two points raised in the petition.

One, whether or not members of the Negro race were systematically excluded or their number limited in the selection of the jury panel and of the jury commission.

And two whether the petitioner's alleged confession was introduced into evidence after the same had been illegally and unlawfully secured from him.

I should like to argue those two points in the order of that certiorari was granted, namely beginning with the filing of our motion to quash the then panel on the grounds of racial discrimination.

In order to fully appreciate the motion which was filed in the lower court, it should be pointed out that the petitioner in this case is a Negro, that he was charged with the slaying of an elderly white man and that he was tried before an all white jury in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

The population of Jefferson County according to the 1950 census is 76,075 of which 37,835 or approximately 50% of the total population is composed of colored people.

The jury panel is selected from qualified electors within the county pursuant to Arkansas law.

And at the time of the trial on the lower court there were 19,452 qualified voters in Jefferson County, of which 5774 or 30% were Negroes.

The petitioner in proper time prior to the hearing of the case on the merits filed a motion seeking to quash the jury panel on the grounds, one, that for more than 50 years in Jefferson County, Arkansas no Negro had ever been appointed to the three-man jury commission which is charged with responsibility of selecting persons to serve on the jury panel in Jefferson County.

And two, that of the persons selected for jury service, that the jury commission was acting in a manner so as to have and inapportioned limiting of the number of Negroes called for jury service in Jefferson County.

John M. Harlan:

What is the term of office of the jury commission?

Wiley A. Branton:

The term of office of the jury commission amounts to approximately six months.

There are two terms of court each year and the court appoints a three-man jury commission a few days prior to the beginning of each term of court.

The term --

Earl Warren:

Is it a -- was it a practice to change them or do they go on (Voice Overlap) --

Wiley A. Branton:

It is the practice to change them and I'm rather definite that it is required by law that they be changed.

I think there is a two year span between the time that they can serve.

So that you do get a different, an entirely different jury commission at each term of court.

The terms of court in Jefferson County begin in March and in October, of course each commission serves until the next term the court begins.

Earl Warren:

May I ask before you get into your argument, is there any literacy test for registering for voters?

Wiley A. Branton:

Not in the State of Arkansas, the only prerequisite for voting in the State of Arkansas is a payment of a $1 poll tax --

Earl Warren:


Wiley A. Branton:

-- and then you are a qualified to elector for all purposes under the Arkansas law.

Hugo L. Black:

Is that accumulated?

Wiley A. Branton:

No, sir.

You can skip as many years as you want, the only requirement being that if you pay on or before October the 1st of the year preceding the year in which the elections take place.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Are public officials eligible to serve as jury commissioner, as sheriffs, et cetera?

Wiley A. Branton:

I do not believe that they are, Your Honor, I could not answer that question.

I know that there are some exclusions by law.