It is a denial of the equal protection of the laws to try a defendant of a particular race or color under an indictment issued by a grand jury, or before a petit jury, from which all persons of his race or color have, solely because of that race or color, been excluded by the State, whether acting through its legislature, its courts, or its executive or administrative officers.
Texas employed a system that relied on jury commissioners to select prospective grand jurors from the community at large. The qualifications for grand jurors required that they be a citizen of Texas and a qualified voter, among other things. Prior to defendant's trial for murder, he brought timely motions to quash the indictment and the jury panel on the basis that persons of Mexican descent who were otherwise qualified were systematically excluded from service as jury commissioners, grand jurors, and petit jurors, in violation of defendant's rights as a member of the class. The trial court denied the defendant's constitutional challenge to a grand jury indictment and affirmed defendant's conviction for murder. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed.
Did exclusion of member's of defendant's race from the jury pool require reversal of his conviction?
The Court held that it taxed credibility to say that mere chance resulted in there being no members of defendant's class among the over 6,000 jurors called in the prior 25 years. The result bespoke discrimination, whether or not it was a conscious decision on the part of any individual jury commissioner.