Citation. 100 U.S. (10 Otto) 303 (1879)
Brief Fact Summary.
The petitioner complained for the denial of his constitutional rights when he was rejected to serve on the grand jury in his State.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The Fourteenth Amendment secures to a race that through many generations had been held in slavery all civil rights that the superior race enjoy.
The petitioner, a colored man, was indicted for murder in the Circuit Court of Ohio County, in West Virginia and upon trial was convicted and sentenced. The petitioner asserted that he was denied rights to which he was entitled under the Constitution because under state law blacks are ineligible to serve on the grand jury.
In composition or selection of jurors by whom he is to be indicted, may all persons of his race or color be excluded by law solely because of his color?
No, the West Virginia statute respecting juries that controlled the selection of the grand jury is a discrimination. Nor would it be if the persons excluded by it were white men or other races. The fact that colored people are singled our and expressly denied by a statute all right to participate in the administration of law, as jurors, because of their color, though they are citizens, and may be in other respects fully qualified, is practically a brand upon them an assertion of their inferiority, and a stimulant to that race prejudice which is an impediment to securing to individuals of the race that equal justice which the law aims to secure to all others. Therefore, the statute at issue violates the Constitution.
The Fourteenth Amendment was designed to assure to the colored race the enjoyment of all the civil rights that under the laws are enjoyed by white persons, and to give to that race the protection of the general government, in that enjoyment, whenever it should be denied by the States. It not only gave citizenship and privileges of citizenship to persons of color, but it denied to any State the power to withhold from them the equal protection of the laws. No discrimination shall be made against colored men by law solely because of their color. The words of the Fourteenth Amendment are prohibitory, but they contain a necessary implication of a positive immunity or right, most valuable to the colored race – the right to exemption from unfriendly legislation against them distinctively as colored – exemption from discriminations, implying inferiority in civil society, lessening the security of their enjoyment of their rights which others enjoy.