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BUMPER V. NORTH CAROLINA, 391 U. S. 543 (1968)

U.S. Supreme Court

Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543 (1968)

Bumper v. North Carolina

No. 1016

Argued April 24-25, 1968

Decided June 3, 1968

391 U.S. 543


Petitioner was tried for rape in North Carolina, an offense punishable by death unless the jury recommends life imprisonment. The prosecution was permitted to challenge for cause all prospective jurors who stated that they were opposed to capital punishment or had conscientious scruples against imposing the death penalty. A rifle which was introduced at the trial was obtained by a search of petitioner's grandmother's house, where he resided. Four officers appeared at the home, announced that they had a warrant to search it, and were told by the owner to "[g]o ahead." At the hearing on a motion to suppress, which was denied, the prosecutor stated that he did not rely on a warrant to justify the search, but on consent. The jury found petitioner guilty, but recommended life imprisonment, and the State Supreme Court affirmed.


1. Petitioner has adduced no evidence to support his claim that a jury from which those who are opposed to capital punishment or have conscientious scruples against imposing the death penalty are excluded for cause is necessarily "prosecution prone," warranting reversal of his conviction for denial of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to an impartial jury. Witherspoon v. Illinois, ante, p. 391 U. S. 510. P. 391 U. S. 545.

2. A search cannot be justified as lawful on the basis of consent when that "consent" has been given only after the official conducting the search has asserted that he possesses a warrant; there is no consent under such circumstances. Pp. 391 U. S. 546-550.

3. Because the rifle, which was erroneously admitted into evidence, was plainly damaging against petitioner, its admission was not harmless error. Chapman v. California, 386 U. S. 18. P. 391 U. S. 550.

270 N.C. 521, 155 S.E.2d 173, reversed and remanded.

Page 391 U. S. 544

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