United States Supreme Court
476 U.S. 28 (1986)
Willie Turner (defendant) attempted to rob a jewelry store in Virginia. Turner demanded that the owner, W. Jack Smith, place money and jewelry into bags. Smith obeyed but triggered a silent alarm. When an officer arrived, Turner acquired the officer’s gun and shot and killed Smith. A grand jury indicted Turner on charges of capital murder. Turner proposed voir dire questions to the trial judge, including one question asking whether the fact that Turner was black and Smith was white affected the jury’s ability to make an impartial decision in the case. The judge rejected the question, and the jurors during voir dire remained unaware that Smith was white. The jury convicted Turner. In order to consider the death penalty under Virginia law, the jury was required to find that Turner was likely to commit future violent crimes or that Turner’s crime involved an outrageous depravity of mind. The jury was also required to consider any mitigating evidence offered by Turner. After the capital-sentencing hearing, during which Turner presented evidence of mental disturbance as a mitigating factor, the jury recommended the death penalty. Turner appealed the sentence, arguing that the trial judge had violated his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury by declining to ask the proposed question during voir dire. The court disagreed with Turner, citing the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Ristaino v. Ross, 424 U.S. 589 (1976), which stated that a trial judge’s refusal to question jurors about potential racial biases was not unconstitutional unless there were special circumstances present. Turner petitioned for federal habeas corpus. The district court denied the petition, and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)
Concurrence/Dissent (Brennan, J.)
Dissent (Powell, J.)
Dissent (Marshall, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 204,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.