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NCJ Number: 76626 Find in a Library
Title: Federal Remedies for Racial Discrimination in Grand Juror Selection
Journal: Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems  Volume:16  Issue:1  Dated:(1980)  Pages:85-117
Author(s): W H Diamond
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 33
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper on the appropriateness of remedies for racial discrimination in grand juror selection shows that civil actions brought by those excluded from grand juries is the most effective remedy.
Abstract: Four ways in which grand jury discrimination may be attacked through the judicial system are explored. For example, defendants who have been convicted after being indicted by an illegally constituted grand jury may appeal their convictions through the State courts and on certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. Another way to redress grievances is for defendants who have exhausted the appeals process and are confined to prison to petition a Federal district court for habeas corpus relief. Also, those who have been denied an opportunity to sit on a grand jury may bring a civil action for relief under the 14th amendment or the applicable civil rights statute. Finally, the Federal Government may bring a criminal action against any State official responsible for the discriminatory selection of grand jurors. The voiding of criminal convictions and the granting of habeas corpus relief have been the primary weapons of the Federal courts in their attack on grand jury discrimination. However, conflicts have arisen between the desire, embodied in this practice, to rid the judicial system of discrimination and the principle that convictions should not be set aside unless the verdict of the petit jury has been influenced by errors affecting substantial rights of the accused. Determination of whether a fairly obtained conviction should be reversed because the preceding indictment has been returned by a grand jury selected in an unconstitutional fashion is sought. The arguments for and against reviewing grand jury discrimination claims in a habeas corpus proceeding, for which petitions now constitute a substantial portion of the Federal district courts' dockets are presented. Overall, reversals should not be the primary weapon of the Supreme Court since a reversal frees a defendant fairly convicted and thus defeats society's interest in having the guilty brought to justice. Furthermore, criminal prosecutions would deter State officials from excluding jurors on account of race. However, the difficulty of proving intent to discriminate beyond a reasonable doubt will dissuade Federal prosecutors from bringing criminal actions. The deterrence value of Federal habeas corpus relief is limited and its costs are high. The possibility of carefully shaped judicial remedy and the availability of attorney's fees make civil actions brought by those excluded from grand juries the most attractive remedies. A comprehensive approach to eliminating racial discrimination in the selection of grand juries is recommended. Relevant case law and footnotes are included.
Index Term(s): Civil remedies; Grand juries; Habeas corpus; Judicial decisions; Jury selection; Racial discrimination
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