Ross v. Oklahoma

LOCATION:Billy Greenwood’s Residence

DOCKET NO.: 86-5309
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 487 US 81 (1988)
REARGUED: Apr 18, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1988
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1988

Gary R. Peterson – on behalf of the Petitioner
Gary Peterson – for petitioner
Robert A. Nance – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Ross v. Oklahoma

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument – April 18, 1988 in Ross v. Oklahoma
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 19, 1988 in Ross v. Oklahoma

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 22, 1988 in Ross v. Oklahoma

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinions of the Court in two cases to announce.

The first is Ross against Oklahoma, No. 86-5309.

This case comes to us on certiorari to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

The petitioner here, a fellow named Bobby Lynn Ross, was charged with capital murder.

During voir dire in selecting his jury, a prospective juror named Darrell Huling indicated that if the jury found Ross guilty, that juror would automatically vote to impose the death penalty.

The trial court denied Ross’ motion to remove Huling for cause and Ross then used his sixth peremptory challenge to strike the juror.

Ross ultimately exhausted all of his peremptory challenges provided under Oklahoma law.

The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

On appeal, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said that the trial court had erred in denying the challenge to juror Huling for cause, but that Court also held that petitioner had established no grounds for reversal because no objectionable juror had been seated.

For the reasons explained in an opinion filed today, we affirm the judgment of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

We agree that juror Huling should have been removed for cause, but we think the trial court’s error did not abridge Ross’ Sixth Amendment right to an impartial juror because Huling did not sit and Ross has not shown that any partial juror sat on the panel that actually heard his case.

The trial court’s error forced Ross to exercise one of his peremptory challenges and may thereby have affected the composition of the jury that sat.

But we reject the argument that because of this fact, a Sixth Amendment violation occurred.

We also reject the argument that the trial court’s error somehow deprived Ross of due process.

Peremptory challenges are creatures of state law.

They are not mandated by the Constitution.

And under the ruling of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Ross obtained all he was entitled to under Oklahoma law.

Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Brennan, Blackmun and Stevens have joined.