Duren v. Missouri
Annotate this Case
439 U.S. 357 (1979)
U.S. Supreme Court
Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979)
Duren v. Missouri
Argued November 1, 1978
Decided January 9, 1979
439 U.S. 357
Petitioner was convicted of crimes in a Missouri State court notwithstanding his contention that his right to trial by a jury chosen from a fair cross-section of his community was denied by provisions of Missouri law granting women who so request an automatic exemption from jury service. Under the challenged jury selection system, before the jury wheel is filled, women may claim exemption in response to a prominent notice on a jury selection questionnaire, and, prior to the appearance of jurors for service, women are afforded an additional opportunity to decline service by returning the summons or by simply not reporting for jury duty. Petitioner established that 54% of the adults in the forum county were women; that, during 8 of the 10 months immediately prior to his trial, only 26.7% of those summoned from the jury wheel were women; and that only 14.5% of the persons on the post-summons weekly venires during this period were women. For the month in which petitioner's jury was chosen, the weekly venires averaged 15.5% women. Petitioner's all-male jury was selected from a panel of 53, of whom 5 were women. The Missouri Supreme Court questioned aspects of petitioner's statistics, but held that the underrepresentation of women on jury venires in the forum county did not violate the fair cross-section requirement set forth in Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U. S. 522, under which a defendant, in order to establish a prima facie violation of that requirement, must show (1) that the group alleged to be excluded is a "distinctive" group in the community; (2) that the group's representation in the source 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 results from systematic exclusion of the group in the jury selection process.
Held: The exemption on request of women from jury service under Missouri law, resulting in an average of less than 15% women on jury venires in the forum county, violates the "fair-cross-section" requirement of the Sixth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth. Pp. 439 U. S. 363-370.
(a) If women, who "are sufficiently numerous and distinct from men," are systematically excluded from venires, the fair cross-section requirement cannot be satisfied. Taylor, supra at 419 U. S. 531. P. 439 U. S. 364.
(b) There is no evidence to show that the 1970 census data on which
petitioner relied distorted the percentage of women in the forum county at the time of trial, and the court below erred in concluding that jury venires with approximately 15% women are "reasonably representative" of the relevant community. Pp. 439 U. S. 364-366.
(c) Petitioner's proof showed that the underrepresentation of women, generally and on his venire, was attributable to their systematic exclusion in the jury selection process at both the jury wheel and summons stages, resulting in the low percentage (14.5%) at the final, venire, stage. Pp. 439 U. S. 366-367.
(d) Respondent did not satisfy its burden of showing any significant state interest justifying the infringement of petitioner's constitutional right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community. It did not how that exemptions other than that for women caused the underrepresentation of women. Nor does exempting all women because of preclusive domestic responsibilities of some women constitute sufficient justification for the disproportionate exclusion of women on jury venire permitted in Missouri. Pp. 439 U. S. 367-370.
556 S.W.2d 11, reversed and remanded.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 439 U. S. 370.