Ristaino v. Ross

LOCATION:Fairfax-Brewster School

DOCKET NO.: 74-1216
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 424 US 589 (1976)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1975 / Dec 09, 1975
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1976

Barbara A. H. Smith – for petitioners
Michael G. West – for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Ristaino v. Ross

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 08, 1975 in Ristaino v. Ross
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 09, 1975 in Ristaino v. Ross

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 03, 1976 in Ristaino v. Ross

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the court in number 1216, Ristaino against Ross will be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

Here on the Certiorari from the United States of Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The respondent, a Negro, was prosecuted in the Massachusetts’s state court for a violent crime against a white security guard.

The trial judge questioned veniremen on voir dire as to general bias or prejudice but declined to put a question specifically addressed to racial prejudice.

Following conviction and affirmance in the state courts, respondent was granted relief by a District Court in a Federal habeas corpus proceeding.

The Court of Appeals affirmed relying on our decision in Ham against South Carolina but Ham does not hold that the constitution requires in every criminal case, involving parties or witnesses of different races that specific questions as to racial prejudice, be asked of venireman.

Ham involved a highly inflammatory situation, where the defendant claimed he had been framed on account of his race.

We view the circumstances, in this case, including the care exercised by the Massachusetts trial court in seeking an impartial jury to be quite different from Ham.

Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice White filed a statement concurring in the result, Mr. Justice Marshall filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Brennan joined.

Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Powell.