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Citizen Juries

Citizen Juries

How has the Supreme Court defined the right to citizen juries? Explore these landmark Supreme Court cases to find out.

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. Read More.

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. Read More. 

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. Read More.

Smith v. State of Texas (1940)

Racial discrimination in jury selection violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Read More.

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. Read More.

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. Read More. 

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. Read More.

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. Read More. 

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. Read More.

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. Read More.