The Supreme Court declared that exclusion of African Americans from juries was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
During the late nineteenth century, West Virginia had a statute that explicitly limited jury service to “white male persons.” Strauder, a black man convicted of murder, claimed that he had not received a fair trial because of the statute. The Supreme Court agreed. Writing for a 7-2 majority, Justice William Strong explained that such a law constituted precisely the kind of discrimination that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to prevent. Also in 1880, the Court decided three other important cases dealing with racial exclusion from juries. In Neal v. Delaware and Ex parte Virginia, it held that even if the state’s laws did not exclude blacks, the actual practice of exclusion was a denial of equal protection. In Virginia v. Rives, however, the Court ruled that the mere absence of African Americans from juries was not in itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In effect, Rives allowed local officials to use their discretionary authority to exclude blacks from juries. Although Strauder, Ex Parte Virginia, and Neal had limited impact during the Jim Crow era, they nevertheless helped prepare a constitutional foundation for the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.
Justice William Strong defended the right of African Americans to serve on juries in Strauder v. West Virginia.
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Equal protection clause
Jury composition and size
Race and discrimination
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