Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ham v. South Carolina case brief

Ham v. South Carolina case brief summary
409 U.S. 524 (1973)

The Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed petitioner's drug conviction. The Court granted certiorari and limited review to the question of whether petitioner's constitutional rights were violated by the trial judge's refusal to examine jurors during voir dire as to their possible prejudice.

Petitioner's counsel requested the trial judge to ask jurors during voir dire four questions that related to possible prejudice against petitioner. The trial judge did not ask the questions that petitioner requested, and instead he asked three general questions as to bias, prejudice, or partiality. After the state supreme court affirmed his conviction, petitioner sought a writ of certiorari.

  • On review, the United States Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment required the trial judge to interrogate the jurors upon the subject of racial prejudice. 
  • The Court held that the trial judge was not required to put the question in any particular form or to ask any particular number of questions on the subject. 
  • The Court held that it did not believe that petitioner's constitutional rights were violated when the trial judge refused to ask about prejudice against people with beards.


The Court reversed the judgment from the state supreme court, which had affirmed petitioner's conviction.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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