The Sixth Amendment guarantees individuals the right to trial by a jury of their peers. Historically, however, individuals have been excluded from juries because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and other demographic attributes. In fact, it was not until 1975 in the case Taylor v. Louisiana that the Supreme Court declared that the exclusion of women on juries was unconstitutional.
Until Taylor, it was common for women to be excluded from jury service. In rare instances when women were included in jury pools, they were likely not chosen to serve. Opponents argued that grisly case details would corrupt women, that jury duty would interfere with their obligations as wives and mothers, and that they were too sympathetic and emotional to judge others’ actions. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1957 mandated gender equality in federal jury systems, the Supreme Court upheld Florida’s voluntary jury duty law in Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57 (1961). The Court concluded that Florida’s classification by gender in jury statutes was reasonable because of women’s social status and duties as wives and mothers.
In the 1975 Taylor case, the male appellant was convicted by a jury selected from a pool without any women, pursuant to Louisiana’s requirement that women not be selected for jury service unless they filed a written declaration of their desire to serve. The Supreme Court held, however, that individuals could not be excluded from jury service or given automatic exemptions based solely on sex, thus overruling the prior Hoyt decision.
LEE R. REMINGTON
References and Further Reading
Cases and Statutes Cited
See also Jury Trial; Jury Trial Right; Sex and Criminal Justice