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Duren v. Missouri

United States Supreme Court
439 U.S. 357 (1979)


Duren (plaintiff) was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery. He argued that his constitutional right to a trial by a jury that is a fair cross-section of the community was violated because of a Missouri law that automatically exempted women who requested not to serve. Duren showed that women in the Missouri community were given several opportunities to claim automatic exemption. At the beginning of the jury selection process, women could claim exemption in response to a questionnaire containing a paragraph with special instructions for women who wished not to serve. Those who returned questionnaires without claiming exemption became part of the jury wheel. Summonses were sent to people randomly selected from the jury wheel. The summonses directed women who wished not to serve to simply return the summons by mail. Finally, if a woman did not return the summons but failed to show up for jury service, she was exempted. Duren presented statistical evidence to support his argument. He showed that 54 percent of adults in the community were women according to the 1970 census. Duren also established that only 26.7 percent of the people summoned at the time his jury was chosen were women. Of those who appeared for service, only 741 were women while 4,378 were men. This resulted in venires that were only around 15 percent female. Duren’s statistical evidence was not disputed. His all-male jury was selected from a panel of 53 people, of which 5 were female. The state court held that the number of females in the jury process was acceptable and affirmed Duren’s conviction. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Dissent (Rehnquist, J.)

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