Carter v. Texas,
177 U.S. 442 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Carter v. Texas, 177 U.S. 442 (1900)

Carter v. Texas

No. 193

Submitted March 16, 1900

Decided April 16, 1900

177 U.S. 442


Whenever, by any action of a state, whether through its legislature, through its courts, or through its executive or administrative officers, all persons of the African race are excluded solely because of their race or color from serving as grand jurors in the criminal prosecution of a person of the African race, the equal protection of the laws is denied to him, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. And when a defendant has had no opportunity to challenge the grand jury which found the indictment against him, the objection to the

Page 177 U. S. 443

constitution of the grand jury upon this ground may be taken either by plea in abatement or by motion to quash the indictment before pleading in bar.

The question whether a right or privilege claimed under the Constitution or laws of the United States was distinctly and sufficiently pleaded and brought to the notice of a state court is itself a federal question, in the decision of which this Court, on writ of error, is not concluded by the view taken by the highest court of the state.

A person of the African race was indicted in an inferior court of a state for a murder committed since the impaneling of the grand jury, and, before pleading in bar, presented and read to the court a motion to quash, duly and distinctly alleging that all persons of the African race were excluded, because of their race and color, from the grand jury which found the indictment, and, as was stated in his bill of exceptions allowed by the judge, thereupon offered to introduce witnesses to prove that allegation, but the court refused to hear any evidence upon the subject, and, without investigating whether the allegation was true or false, overruled the motion, and the defendant excepted. After conviction and sentence, he appealed to the highest court of the state in which a decision in the case could be had. That court affirmed the judgment, upon the assumption that the defendant had introduced no evidence in support of the motion to quash. Held, that this assumption was plainly disproved by the statements in the bill of exceptions, and that the judgment of affirmance denied to the defendant a right duly set up and claimed by him under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must therefore be reversed by this Court on writ of error.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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