Castaneda v. Partida
Annotate this Case
430 U.S. 482 (1977)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482 (1977)
Castaneda v. Partida
Argued November 9, 1976
Decided March 23, 1977
430 U.S. 482
Under Texas' "key man" system for selecting grand juries, jury commissioners are appointed by a state district judge to select prospective jurors from different portions of the county, after which the district judge proceeds to test their qualifications. A grand juror, in addition to being a citizen of the State and of the county in which he is to serve and a qualified voter in the county, must be "of sound mind and good moral character," be literate, have no prior felony conviction, and be under no pending indictment or other accusation. After respondent, a Mexican-American, had been convicted of a crime in a Texas District Court and had exhausted his state remedies on his claim of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury that had indicted him, he filed a habeas corpus petition in the Federal District Court, alleging a denial of due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, because of gross underrepresentation of Mexican-Americans on the county grand juries. On the basis of the evidence before it, the District Court concluded that respondent had made out a weak prima facie case of invidious discrimination, and, on balance, the court's doubts about the reliability of population and grand jury statistics offered by respondent from census and county records, coupled with its opinion that Mexican-Americans constituted a "governing majority" in the county, caused it further to conclude that the prima facie case was rebutted by the State, and the petition was dismissed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the State had failed to rebut respondent's prima facie case.
Held: Based on all the facts that bear on the grand jury discrimination issue, such as the statistical disparities (the county population was 79% Mexican-American, but, over an 11-year period, only 39% of those summoned for grand jury service were Mexican-American), the method of jury selection, and any other relevant testimony as to the manner in which the selection process was implemented, the proof offered by respondent was sufficient to demonstrate a prima facie case of intentional discrimination in grand jury selection, and the State failed to rebut such presumption by competent evidence. Pp. 430 U. S. 492-501.
(a) None of the evidence in the record rebutted respondent's prima facie case. The State offered only the testimony of the State District
Judge who had selected the jury commissioners, dealing principally with the selection of the commissioners and the instructions given them, and did not call the commissioners themselves to testify. Without evidence about the method by which the commissioners determined the other qualifications for grand jurors prior to the statutory time for testing qualifications, no inference explaining the disparity by reference to the literacy, sound mind, moral character, and criminal record qualifications can be drawn from the statistics about the population as a whole. Pp. 430 U. S. 497-499.
(b) Nor did the District Court's "governing majority" theory dispel the presumption of intentional discrimination. Because of the many facets of human motivation, it would be unwise to presume as a matter of law that human beings of one definable group will not discriminate against other members of their group. Furthermore, the relevance of a governing majority of elected officials to the grand jury selection process is questionable, and even if a "governing majority" theory has general applicability in cases of this kind, the record in this case is inadequate to permit such an approach. Pp. 430 U. S. 499-500.
524 F.2d 481, affirmed.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 430 U. S. 501. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 430 U. S. 504. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 430 U. S. 507. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 430 U. S. 507.