Norris v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 587; 55 S. Ct. 579; 79 L. Ed. 1074 (1935)

Norris v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 587; 55 S. Ct. 579; 79 L. Ed. 1074 (1935)

Facts—Norris was one of nine African American youths, known as “the Scottsboro boys,” who were indicted in 1931 in Jackson County, Alabama, for the crime of rape. They were tried and convicted in Morgan County, Alabama, on change of venue. Norris claimed that his rights guaranteed to him by the Fourteenth Amendment had been violated because the juries that indicted and tried him were chosen to the exclusion of members of his race. The state contended that even if it were assumed that there was no name of an African American on the jury roll, it was not established that race or color caused the omission. They said in this case the commission drawing up the jury did not take into consideration race or color, and that no one had been excluded because of race or color.

Question—Was the exclusion of African Americans from the jury pool constitute a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment?


ReasonsC.J. Hughes (8–0). The evidence produced disclosed that African Americans (to whom, consistent with terminology then in use, the Court referred as Negroes) had never been called for jury duty in the two counties involved in this case. Furthermore, it was disclosed that there were some qualified African Americans in these counties. The Court reasoned that this was prima facie evidence that African Americans were denied jury duty because of their race or color, and this was therefore contrary to the Constitution.

NoteNorris is the second “Scottsboro case.” The first was Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932), which applied to the states the guarantee of counsel provision of the Sixth Amendment if certain circumstances were present.

Leave a Reply