Swain v. Alabama

PETITIONER: Swain
RESPONDENT: Alabama
LOCATION: Point of picking up hitchhiker

DOCKET NO.: 64
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 380 US 202 (1965)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1964
DECIDED: Mar 08, 1965

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Swain v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1964 in Swain v. Alabama

Earl Warren:

Number 64, Robert Swain, Petitioner, versus Alabama.

Senator Motley.

Constance Baker Motley:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

Petitioner in this case is a Negro male about 20 years of age.

And he asked this Court to review the judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama which affirmed his conviction and sentenced to death on a charge of rape.

The petitioner was convicted of raping a 17-year-old White girl and was sentenced to death by a heavy jury sitting in Talladega County, Alabama.

No Negro has ever served on a heavy jury in Talladega County because they are always struck from the trial jury venire by the states attorney.

Potter Stewart:

Senator Motley does the -- in Alabama does the jury assess the penalty in a case of this time?

Constance Baker Motley:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

Within what range does -- do you know?

Constance Baker Motley:

Well, no --

Potter Stewart:

Again, they obviously can impose the death penalty.

Constance Baker Motley:

Yes, they did in this case assess the penalty of death, that's the penalty in Alabama.

Potter Stewart:

And it is -- in their discretion, apparently (Voice Overlap) --

Constance Baker Motley:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

-- the penalty?

Constance Baker Motley:

It's life or death sentence.

Petitioner claimed below of course and asserts here that his conviction violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and that the grand jury which indicted him in the petit jury which tried, convicted and sentenced him were the products of racial discrimination.

Now, in a capital case in this county, the circuit judge orders the sheriff to summon at least 50 and not more than a 100 persons to serve on the petit jury.

About 75 usually appear of the 100 that are summoned and of these numbers there will be some who claim exemptions and others will be excused for various reasons.

And then of the number left, say there are 50 left, the striking then begins in this fashion, the states strikes one and the defendant strikes two.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Senator Motley, (Inaudible)

Constance Baker Motley:

Yes.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

(Inaudible)

Constance Baker Motley:

That's right.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

So that if you have to (Inaudible)?

Constance Baker Motley:

That's right, yes.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Is that in your case?

Constance Baker Motley:

That's right sir, yes.

Byron R. White:

(Inaudible)