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Amdt6.4.5.1 A Jury Selected from a Representative Cross-Section of the Community

Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

The Sixth Amendment guarantee of the right to a trial “by an impartial jury” applies in both state and federal court.1 Other constitutional provisions, including the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, also bear upon impartiality. Before the Court extended the right to a jury trial to state courts in the 1968 case Duncan v. Louisiana,2 the Court had established that, if a state chose to provide juries, due process required them to be impartial.3 In the post-Duncan era, the Supreme Court has continued to ground the right to an impartial jury in both the Sixth Amendment and due process.4 In addition, equal protection prohibits certain forms of discrimination in jury selection.5

Impartiality is a two-part requirement: the jury must be selected from a pool that represents a fair cross-section of the community6 and the jurors must be unbiased.7 First, “the selection of a petit jury from a representative cross section of the community is an essential component of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.” 8 This “fair cross-section” requirement applies only to jury panels or venires from which petit juries are chosen, and not to the composition of the petit juries themselves.9 Describing the test for whether a prima facie violation of the fair-cross-section requirement had occurred, the Supreme Court stated:

In order to establish a prima facie violation of the fair-cross-section requirement, the defendant must show (1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a ‘distinctive’ group in the community; (2) that the representation of this group in venires from which juries are selected is not fair and reasonable in relation to the number of such persons in the community; and (3) that this underrepresentation is due to systematic exclusion of the group in the jury-selection process.10

The defendant may bring a challenge under this test even if he or she does not belong to the excluded group.11 Once the defendant demonstrates a prima facie violation, the government faces a formidable burden: the jury selection process may be sustained under the Sixth Amendment only if those aspects of the process that result in the disproportionate exclusion of a distinctive group, such as exemption criteria, “manifestly and primarily” advance a “significant state interest.” 12 Applying these standards, the Court invalidated a state selection system granting women an automatic exemption from jury service upon request.13 In an earlier case, it voided a selection system under which no woman would be called for jury duty unless she had previously filed a written declaration of her desire to be subject to service.14

Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522, 526–528 (1975); see Ramos v. Louisiana, No. 18-5924, slip op. at 7 (U.S. Apr. 20, 2020) (reviewing incorporation precedents concerning the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial). back
391 U.S. 145, 149–50 (1968). back
Peters v. Kiff, 407 U.S. 493, 501–02 (1972) ( “Long before this Court held that the Constitution imposes the requirement of jury trial on the States, it was well established that the Due Process Clause protects a defendant from jurors who are actually incapable of rendering an impartial verdict, based on the evidence and the law.” ); Turner v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 466, 471 (1965); Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722–23 (1961) (overturning conviction on due process principles for lack of impartial jury); see also Gonzales v. Beto, 405 U.S. 1052, 1506 n.4 (1972) (Stewart, J., concurring in judgment) (describing “established case law holding that due process of law requires an impartial jury.” ). back
See Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 377–78 (2010) (noting that the “ Sixth Amendment secures to criminal defendants the right to trial by an impartial jury” before declaring that due process requires the trier of fact to judge a case “impartially, unswayed by outside influence” ); Turner v. Murray, 476 U.S. 28, 36 n.9 (1986) ( “The right to an impartial jury is guaranteed by both the Sixth Amendment, made applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, and by principles of due process.” ); Ristaino v. Ross, 424 U.S. 589, 595 n.6 (1976) ( “A criminal defendant in a state court is guaranteed an ‘impartial jury’ by the Sixth Amendment as applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Principles of due process also guarantee a defendant an impartial jury.” ); see also Dietz v. Bouldin, 579 U.S. 40, 48 (2016) ( “[T]he guarantee of an impartial jury . . . is vital to the fair administration of justice.” ). back
See, e.g., Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 85 (1986) ( “The Equal Protection Clause guarantees the defendant that the State will not exclude members of his race from the jury venire on account of race, or on the false assumption that members of his race as a group are not qualified to serve as jurors.” ) (citations omitted); Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 494 (1977) ( “[I]n order to show that an equal protection violation has occurred in the context of grand jury selection, the defendant must show that the procedure employed resulted in substantial underrepresentation of his race or of the identifiable group to which he belongs.” ); see Amdt14.S1.8.1.8 Peremptory Challenges. back
See Taylor, 419 U.S. at 530 ( “Trial by jury presupposes a jury drawn from a pool broadly representative of the community as well as impartial in a specific case. . . .” ) (quoting Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co., 328 U.S. 217, 227 (1946) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting)). back
See id. The requirement that jurors be unbiased is discussed at Amdt6.4.2 Right to a Jury Free From Bias back
Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522, 528 (1975); see Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 86 (1942) (reasoning that officials charged with choosing federal jurors “must not allow the desire for competent jurors to lead them into selections which do not comport with the concept of the jury as a cross-section of the community” ); see also Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 474 (1953) (discussing fair cross-section concept in analyzing due process challenge to jury lists used in state trial, fifteen years before Duncan made the jury trial right applicable against the states). back
Holland v. Illinois, 493 U.S. 474, 480–81 (1990); Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162, 173–74 (1986) ( “The limited scope of the fair-cross-section requirement is a direct and inevitable consequence of the practical impossibility of providing each criminal defendant with a truly ‘representative’ petit jury . . . .” ). back
Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357, 364 (1979); see also Berghuis v. Smith, 559 U.S. 314, 330–32 (2010) (affirming, on habeas review, state court decision that rejected a fair cross-section claim for failure to prove systematic exclusion with particularity). back
Taylor, 419 U.S. at 526 (holding that male defendant had standing to challenge exclusion of female jurors); Peters v. Kiff, 407 U.S. 493, 500–05 (1972) (holding that White defendant had standing to bring due process challenge against exclusion of African American jurors and reasoning that “if the Sixth Amendment were applicable here, and petitioner were challenging a post-Duncan petit jury, he would clearly have standing to challenge the systematic exclusion of any identifiable group from jury service” ). back
Duren, 439 U.S. at 367–68. back
Id. at 359–60. back
Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522, 526–31 (1975); see also Ballard v. United States, 329 U.S. 187, 193 (1946) ( “We conclude that the purposeful and systematic exclusion of women from the [federal jury] panel in this case was a departure from the scheme of jury selection which Congress adopted . . . .” ); Thiel v. S. Pac. Co., 328 U.S. 217, 224–25 (1946) (exercising supervisory power over administration of justice in federal courts to grant a new trial in a civil case where day laborers were excluded from the jury lists). Before the Supreme Court held in 1968 that the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial applied against the states, the Court had rejected, in 5-to-4 decisions, Fourteenth Amendment challenges to state use of “blue ribbon” jury lists that tended to exclude women and laborers. See Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261, 290–93 (1947) (reasoning that not even systematic or purposeful underrepresentation of women or occupational groups violated the Fourteenth Amendment); Moore v. New York, 333 U.S. 565, 566–68 (1948) (reaffirming Fay but reasoning that the evidence did not show the systematic exclusion of African Americans from the jury lists). back