Citizen Juries

Rex v. Zenger (1735)

The colony of New York tried John Peter Zenger, a newspaper publisher, for seditious libel against the colonial governor. At that time, truth was not a defense in a libel case. Zenger’s attorney, Andrew Hamilton, told the jury of their power and duty to judge the law as well as the facts, and the jury acquitted Mr. Zenger. While not a Supreme Court case, this is a landmark example of jury nullification.

Strauder v. West Virginia (1880)

A law barring non-whites from serving on juries was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Sparf et al. v. United States (1895)

Federal judges were not obligated to inform jurors of their full rights and powers to judge both the facts as well as the law.

Smith v. State of Texas (1941)

Racial discrimination in jury selection violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Hernandez v. Texas (1954)

Excluding people from serving on a jury because of their national origin violated the Fourteenth Amendment; a conviction was overturned because the accused had been tried before a jury from which members of his ethnicity had been excluded.

Duncan v. Louisiana (1968)

The Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of jury trials was fundamental to the American system of justice, and states were required to provide them under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Taylor v. Louisiana (1975)

The Sixth Amendment requires that jurors represent a “fair cross-section of the community.” No citizen could be excluded from a jury pool because of sex.

Batson v. Kentucky (1986)

The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibited attorneys from using peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors solely on the basis of race. Racial discrimination in juror selection damaged the community by “undermining public confidence” in the justice system.

Powers v. Ohio (1991)

The Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited attorneys from using peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors solely on the basis of race, whether or not the accused was of the same race/ethnicity as the excluded jurors.

J.E.B. v. Alabama (1994)

The Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited attorneys from using peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors solely on the basis of sex.