Facts of the Case
Prior to trial on a kidnapping charge, defendant Billy J. Taylor, a male, sought to quash the petit jury venire from which his jury would be selected, contending that women had been systematically excluded from the venire, thus depriving him of his federal constitutional right to a fair trial by a properly selected jury. Of the persons eligible for jury service in the judicial district, 53 percent were female, but no more than 10 percent of the persons on the jury wheel were women, and none were selected for service on the defendant’s venire. The discrepancy between females eligible for jury service and those actually included in the venire resulted from the operation of Louisiana constitutional and statutory provisions (later repealed), which excluded a woman from jury service selection unless she had previously filed a written declaration of her desire to be subject to jury service. The defendant’s motion to quash the venire was denied, and upon review in the Supreme Court of Louisiana after the defendant’s conviction, it was held that the Louisiana constitutional and statutory provisions were constitutional. Defendant appealed.
Does an article of the Louisiana state constitution that limits female jury service violate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury of his peers?
Yes. Justice Byron R. White delivered the opinion of the 8-1 majority. The Court held that a jury made up of a representative cross-section of the community is an essential component of the Sixth Amendment. The article, while not actively disqualifying women from serving on the jury, systematically prevented many women from serving. Given the passage of the Federal Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 that guarantees a fair cross-section of the population for juries in federal courts, the Court held that Congress clearly considered a representative jury necessary for a fair trial.Chief Justice Warren E. Burger concurred in the result.Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote a dissenting opinion where he argued that the Sixth Amendment only prevented the use of jury selection procedures that were likely to result in an unfair or biased jury. Since there was no evidence that the article in the Louisiana state constitution undermined jury fairness or that Taylor’s trial was biased, the Court should not overturn the decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
- Citation: 419 US 522 (1975)
- Argued: Oct 16, 1974
- Decided Jan 21, 1975