Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357; 99 S. Ct. 664; 58 L. Ed. 2d 579 (1979)

Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357; 99 S. Ct. 664; 58 L. Ed. 2d 579 (1979)

Facts—A Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, indicted Duren for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery. He contended that a provision of the Missouri law that granted women who requested it an automatic exemption from jury service denied him his right to trial by jury from a cross section of the community. The jury selection process in Jackson County randomly selected from the voter registration list. In addition to several exempted categories, the one on women stated: “Any woman who elects not to serve will fill out this paragraph and mail this questionnaire to the jury commissioner at once.”

Even those women who do not return the summons were treated as having claimed exemption if they failed to appear for jury service on the appointed day. Under this system only about 15 percent of jurors were women.

Question—Did a system exempting women from grand jury service deny Duren an impartial jury under the Sixth Amendment?


ReasonsJ. White (8–1). Petitioner Duren proved that the Jackson County, Missouri, community has an adult population of whom over half are women and that the jury venires containing approximately 15 percent women are not reasonably representative of the community. This “gross discrepancy” requires “the conclusion that women were not fairly representative in the source from which petit juries were drawn.      ” Petitioner demonstrated that the under representation of women was due to “the operation of Missouri’s exemption criteria—whether for the automatic exemption for women or other statutory exemptions.  ” States remain free to prescribe relevant qualifications for their

jurors and provide reasonable exemptions “so long as it may fairly be said that the jury lists or panels are representative of the community.” But exempting all women because of “the preclusive domestic responsibilities of some women is insufficient justification for their disproportionate exclusion on jury venires.” The constitutional guarantee to a jury drawn from a fair cross section of the community “requires that states exercise proper caution.”

J. Rehnquist argued in dissent that the Court was putting too much emphasis on obtaining a fair cross section of the community on juries and too little on convicting the guilty.

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