Sims v. Georgia

LOCATION: Arnold Schwinn & Co.

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 385 US 538 (1967)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1966 / Dec 07, 1966
DECIDED: Jan 23, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Sims v. Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1966 in Sims v. Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1966 in Sims v. Georgia

Earl Warren:

Number 251, Isaac Sims Jr., petitioner, versus Georgia.

Mr. Greenberg.

Jack Greenberg:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case here is on petition for writ of certiorari following the second trial of petitioner, Isaac Sims, a Negro, who was convicted on both occasions of the alleged rape of a white woman in Charlton County, Georgia in April 1963.

Following the first trial, he was sentenced to death.

His court appointed counsel took no appeal shortly before the date of execution one of the present counsel on the case was engaged by sentence, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the state court and in the Supreme Court of Georgia secured a reversal of the conviction on the ground that inadequate representation of counsel.

The second trial was held on October 7, 1964, petitioner Sims was re-indicted on October 6, the day before the second trial commenced.

He was found guilty once more and sentenced to death on October 8, 1964.

This case presents two categories of issues to the Court.

The first involved discriminations selection of grand and petty juries which we claim was conducted contrary to the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The second involves various issues revolving around in alleged confession.

We submit --


Jack Greenberg:

That's correct.

I would submit if any of our points were good, you would not have to reach any of the other of the points.

We --


Jack Greenberg:

Well, the Georgia Court didn't -- that's what I read them as having said but their language -- it was not precisely that their language was they denounced the decision as illogical, impracticable, something to create chaos and so forth.

They said, we didn't do what Jackson requires but this is distinguishable because Georgia has three rules of law that New York didn't have and so this is rather different.

Beside they said there was no factual issue involved and we claim that there was indeed a factual issue and if anything the factual issue should be resolved in the ground that this confession was coerced as matter of law as I hope to be able to demonstrate.

On the confession issue, we claim first of all that the confession was secured by means which is a matter of law are forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment, that secondly this confession was appraised by the state courts according to standards not inconformity with Fourteenth Amendment and that finally was received in evidence according to procedures forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment.

I would like to first discuss the jury question.

On pages three to four of the record, there is a clean abatement which attacks the composition of the grand jury.

It alleges that there has been over period of years systematic exclusion of Negroes, that the grand jury is selected from the tax digest that many Negroes' names appear on the tax digest and many Negroes in the community are upright and intelligent citizens, that over period of 10 years, virtually no Negroes have served on the grand jury, that there has been none as jury commissioners are and that the tax digest are kept on basis of race indicating who's colored and who's white in the very book which is the source of the grand jurors.

The clean abatement also alleged that there was neither notice nor reasonable opportunity to petitioner to challenge the array of the grand jury prior to the time of the return of the indictment which took petitioner by surprise.

Petitioner supposed that he was going to be try on the first indictment and the trial was set for the seventh, he walked into court was still down to six, he'd been re-indicted by another grand jury.

There was also a challenged to the array of the traverse jury and that appears in the record, pages 68 and it claimed that there was a system of selection whereby Negroes who excluded and included on the basis of race and that Negroes selected Negroes who might have served down traverse jury was systematically struck from service on the basis of race and then there were some additional charges which similar to those made in connection with the grand jury.

Now, petitioner will not elaborate on what the law is that governs the jury question because it is familiar to this Court and has been argued at least several times each term but in the phrase, it is that a defendant is not entitled to members of his own race, on a panel or on a jury which tries him.

He's merely entitled not to have them systematically excluded and the way this issue has been tried in case after case has been to look at the history and see what has been the method of selection of the jury, what have been the results and what kind of a judgment can you make from these facts and that would be particularly appropriate in this case because even though petitioners was re-indicted a day before his trial but there was no evidence whatsoever that the method of selection on the new indictment is any different from the method of selection that has been used over all the years in the past and indeed to extent of the record indicates it, it is the same method of selection and does rely upon the tax digest which are divided on the basis of race and white person's name or in white pages and Negro person's name are on yellow pages.