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HERNANDEZ V. TEXAS, 347 U. S. 475 (1954)

U.S. Supreme Court

Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954)

Hernandez v. Texas

No. 406

Argued January 11, 1954

Decided May 3, 1954

347 U.S. 475


The systematic exclusion of persons of Mexican descent from service as jury commissioners, grand jurors, and petit jurors in the Texas county in which petitioner was indicted and tried for murder, although there were a substantial number of such persons in the county fully qualified to serve, deprived petitioner, a person of Mexican descent, of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and his conviction in a state court is reversed. Pp. 347 U. S. 476-482.

(a) The constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws is not directed solely against discrimination between whites and Negroes. Pp. 347 U. S. 477-478.

(b) When the existence of a distinct class is demonstrated, and it is shown that the laws, as written or as applied, single out that class for different treatment not based on some reasonable classification, the guarantees of the Constitution have been violated. P. 347 U. S. 478.

(c) The exclusion of otherwise eligible persons from jury service solely because of their ancestry or national origin is discrimination prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 347 U. S. 478-479.

(d) The evidence in this case was sufficient to prove that, in the county in question, persons of Mexican descent constitute a separate class, distinct from "whites." Pp. 347 U. S. 479-480.

(e) A prima facie case of denial of the equal protection of the laws was established in this case by evidence that there were in the county a substantial number of persons of Mexican descent with the qualifications required for jury service, but that none of them had served on a jury commission, grand jury or petit jury for 25 years. Pp. 347 U. S. 480-481.

(f) The testimony of five jury commissioners that they had not discriminated against persons of Mexican descent in selecting jurors, and that their only objective had been to select those whom they thought best qualified, was not enough to overcome petitioner's prima facie case of denial of the equal protection of the laws. Pp. 347 U. S. 481-482.

(g) Petitioner had the constitutional right to be indicted and tried by juries from which all members of his class were not systematically excluded. P. 347 U. S. 482.

___ Tex.Cr.R. ___, 251 S.W.2d 531, reversed.

Page 347 U. S. 476

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