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Systematic exclusion of women during the jury selection process, resulting in jury pools not "reasonably representative" of the community, denies a criminal defendant his right, under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, to a petit jury selected from a fair cross-section of the community.
A criminal defendant was convicted of certain crimes in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, despite his contention that his right to trial by a jury chosen from a fair cross section of the community, as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, was denied by provisions of Missouri law granting women an automatic exemption from jury service at their request. In general, the defendant established that while 54% of the adults in the forum county were women, only 26.7% of those summoned from the jury wheel were women, and only 14.5% of the persons on the post-summons weekly venires during the period in which his jury was chosen were female. The defendant's all-male jury was selected from a 53-person panel on which there were five women. The Missouri Supreme Court questioned certain aspects of the defendant's statistical presentation in affirming his conviction and held that, even accepting such proof, the number of females in the jury wheel, those summoned, and those appearing were well above acceptable constitutional standards.
Did the automatic exemption of women from jury service on request violate the defendant’s rights as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments?
The Court held that the state statute's exemption of women from jury service on request violated the defendant's rights as guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments in failing to ensure that jurors in criminal cases be drawn from a fair cross section of the community, since it was sufficiently established by the defendant that women, as a group, were numerous and distinct from men. According to the Court, the statistical evidence presented by the defendant was clearly adequate, such a gross discrepancy between the percentage of women in jury venires and the percentage of women in the community requiring the conclusion that women were not fairly represented in the source from which petit juries were drawn. Moreover, the defendant's proof that a large discrepancy occurred not just occasionally but in every weekly venire for a period of nearly a year manifestly indicated that the cause of the underrepresentation was inherent in the particular jury-selection process utilized. The Court further held that no significant state interest was advanced by the exemption for women justifying violation of the fair cross section requirement, and even assuming that certain other statutory exemptions other than those specifically for women justified such violation, there was no proof on the record that these exemptions caused the underrepresentation complained of, mere suggestions and assertions to that effect not being sufficient.