A dispute arose as to whether a state could discriminate on the basis of race in selecting jurors.
Strauder had been convicted of murder by a West Virginia court. At the time, a West Virginia statute prohibited blacks from serving on juries. Strauder sought to remove the case to federal court and to challenge the composition of the jury, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
Does a law prohibiting blacks from serving on juries violate the Fourteenth Amendment?
Such a law violates Fourteenth Amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified specifically for the purpose of protecting the recently emancipated slaves against discrimination by the states. The West Virginia statute infringes upon Strauder’s right to a fair trial, as a jury consisting entirely of whites could not possibly be a jury of his peers. The prejudices of certain classes in society against others are well known. It could hardly be doubted that a rule prohibiting whites from serving on juries would be regarded as unfair.
Justice Field, joined by Justice Clifford, dissenting.
Equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment does not require a black person to be entitled to a mixed jury. No one contends that women or other groups should be entitled to jurors from their respective groups. There is no reason to think that white jurors would not be equally fair to all defendants. Furthermore, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees only civil rights as opposed to political rights. Jury duty is a political right and ought to be regulated as the states see fit.