A Jury of Peers: Supreme Court Cases

The Supreme Court has often dealt with the Bill of Rights and granting the accused on trial a jury of their peers. There have been three significant court cases in the Supreme Court that have dealt with this issue: Hoyt v. Florida, Ballard v. U.S. and Taylor v. Louisiana.

In Hoyt v. Florida a woman named Gwendolyn Hoyt murdered her husband who had been cheating on her. The Florida law stated that a female did not have to serve on the jury unless they specifically asked to be on it. This resulted in many all male juries. Hoyt pleaded to temporary insanity on the charges of her crime and brought forth suit against the Florida law. She stated that women on a jury would’ve been more empathetic then men.

The court rejected Hoyt’s suit by unanimous vote of 9 to 0. The majority opinion stated that the Florida rule was not arbitrary. The court stated that the Florida law was making a good faith effort to let the women in the community make their own decision of whether they wanted to stay at home or serve on the jury.

Ballard v. U.S. was decided in 1946 the court ruled by a decision of 5 to 4 that the practice of California law not to require summons of women on trials was unconstitutional. Edna Ballard challenged the practice of the Supreme Court to sytematically exclude women from trials.

In the case the Supreme Court stated that the California lawwent against the Congressional scheme to put a cross section of the community of the jury. By creating an all male jury, this is went against California law which still made women eligible to serve on juries.

In Taylor v. Louisiana the case was decided in 1975 by a vote of 8 to 1. White wrote the majority opinion and the only dissent came from justice Rehnquist. The defendant Taylor brought forth suit after he was charged with rape that the volunteers only jury service violated his 6th amendment rights of a jury drawn from a cross section of his community.

In the decision in Taylor v. Louisiana the court held that the law systematically excluded women and violated the right of the defendant to have a jury made up of a cross section of the community.

These three important Supreme Court cases statated that juries had to be made up of the defendant’s peers or a cross section of the community that affected all races and genders.

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