Holland v. Illinois, 493 U.S. 474 (1990)

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The Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury in a criminal trial is a fundamental protection. An impartial jury has been interpreted by the courts as being comprised of a fair cross section of individuals from the community in which the crime occurred. A fair cross section is applied to the venire, not the jury. In Batson v. Kentucky (1986), the Supreme Court held that the prosecutor violated the Equal Protection Clause by using peremptory challenges to remove members of the defendant’s race from the venire.

During jury selection in Holland v. Illinois, the prosecutor, using peremptory challenges, struck two black venire members from the jury. Holland (a white man) objected to the peremptory challenges, claiming a Sixth Amendment violation on the basis of a systematic exclusion of jury members based on their race. The Court asserted that this case did not present an equal protection issue because Holland was not black, and his ‘‘claim would be just as strong if the object of the State’s exclusion of jurors had been . . . any other identifiable group.’’

An impartial jury, not a representative jury, is assembled from a fair cross section venire. The defense argument, that the fair cross section requirement constitutes a representative jury, is an argument that the Constitution does not support. ‘‘[T]he constitutional goal of ‘an impartial jury’ would positively be obstructed by a petit jury fair-cross-section requirement, which would cripple the peremptory challenge device.’’


References and Further Reading

  • Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202 (1965).
  • Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975).

Cases and Statutes Cited

See also Fourteenth Amendment