Witherspoon v. Illinois

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Witherspoon v. Illinois
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 24, 1968
Decided June 3, 1968
Full case name Witherspoon v. Illinois
Citations 391 U.S. 510 (more)
88 S. Ct. 1770; 20 L. Ed. 2d 776; 1968 U.S. LEXIS 1469
Stacking the jury with only jurors who would choose the death penalty violates the Sixth Amendment because it is not an impartial jury or a cross-section of the community.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Abe Fortas · Thurgood Marshall
Case opinions
Majority Stewart, joined by Warren, Brennan, Fortas, Marshall
Concurrence Douglas
Dissent Black, joined by Harlan, White
Dissent White
Laws applied
Ill. Rev. Stat., c. 38 s. 743, U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV

Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968), was a U.S. Supreme Court case where the court ruled that a state statute providing the state unlimited challenge for cause of jurors who might have any objection to the death penalty gave too much bias in favor of the prosecution.

The Court said,

Whatever else might be said of capital punishment, it is at least clear that its imposition by a hanging jury cannot be squared with the Constitution. The State of Illinois has stacked the deck against the petitioner. To execute this death sentence would deprive him of his life without due process of law.

The decision in this case would cause the Supreme Court of California to order a retrial on the penalty phase in the 1972 case of California v. Anderson, and when the case was heard for the third time, would find the imposition of the death penalty was unconstitutional on the grounds of the penalty being cruel or unusual punishment, in violation of the State Constitution. The decision would become national in scale when the U.S. Supreme Court also in 1972 ruled in Furman v. Georgia that all death penalty cases were in violation of the 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

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