MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner was convicted in the South Carolina trial court of the possession of marihuana in violation of state law.
Petitioner is a young, bearded Negro who has lived most of his life in Florence County, South Carolina. He appears to have been well known locally for his work in such civil rights activities as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Bi-Racial Committee of the City of Florence. He has never previously been convicted of a crime. His basic defense at the trial was that law enforcement officers were "out to get him" because of his civil rights activities, and that he had been framed on the drug charge.
Prior to the trial judge's voir dire examination of prospective jurors, petitioner's counsel requested the judge to ask jurors four questions relating to possible prejudice against petitioner.
The dissenting justices in the Supreme Court of South Carolina thought that this Court's decision in Aldridge v. United States, 283 U.S. 308 (1931), was binding on the State. There a Negro who was being tried for the murder of a white policeman requested that prospective jurors be asked whether they entertained any racial prejudice. This Court reversed the judgment of conviction because of the trial judge's refusal to make such an inquiry. Mr. Chief Justice Hughes, writing for the Court, stated that the "essential demands of fairness" required the trial judge under the circumstances of that case to interrogate the veniremen with respect to racial prejudice upon the request of counsel for a Negro Criminal defendant. Id., at 310.
The Court's opinion relied upon a number of state court holdings throughout the country to the same effect, but it was not expressly grounded upon any constitutional requirement. Since one of the purposes of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is to insure these "essential demands of fairness," e. g., Lisenba v. California, 314 U.S. 219, 236 (1941), and since a principal purpose of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment was to prohibit the States from
We agree with the dissenting justices of the Supreme Court of South Carolina that the trial judge was not required to put the question in any particular form, or to ask any particular number of questions on the subject, simply because requested to do so by petitioner. The Court in Aldridge was at pains to point out, in a context where its authority within the federal system of courts allows a good deal closer supervision than does the Fourteenth Amendment, that the trial court "had a broad discretion as to the questions to be asked," 283 U. S., at 310. The discretion as to form and number of questions permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is at least as broad. In this context, either of the brief, general questions urged by the petitioner would appear sufficient to focus the attention of prospective jurors on any racial prejudice they might entertain.
The third of petitioner's proposed questions was addressed to the fact that he wore a beard. While we cannot say that prejudice against people with beards might not have been harbored by one or more of the potential jurors in this case, this is the beginning and
Petitioner's final question related to allegedly prejudicial pretrial publicity. But the record before us contains neither the newspaper articles nor any description of the television program in question. Because of this lack of material in the record substantiating any pretrial publicity prejudicial to this petitioner, we have no occasion to determine the merits of his request to have this question posed on voir dire.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I concur in that portion of the majority's opinion that holds that the trial judge was constitutionally compelled to inquire into the possibility of racial prejudice on voir dire. I think, however, that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial judge to preclude the defendant from an inquiry by which prospective jurors' prejudice to hair growth could have been explored.
It is unquestioned that a defendant has the constitutional right to a trial by a neutral and impartial jury. Criminal convictions have been reversed when the limitations on voir dire have unreasonably infringed the exercise of this right. Aldridge v. United States, 283 U.S. 308. Such reversals have not been limited to incidents where the defendant was precluded from inquiring into possible racial prejudice. In both Morford v. United States, 339 U.S. 258, and Dennis v. United States, 339 U.S. 162, defendants were held to have the right to inquire into possible prejudices concerning the defendants' alleged ties with the Communist party. In Aldridge v. United States, supra, at 313, this Court made it clear that voir dire aimed at disclosing "prejudices of a serious character" must be allowed.
Prejudices involving hair growth are unquestionably of a "serious character." Nothing is more indicative of the importance currently being attached to hair growth by the general populace than the barrage of cases reaching the courts evidencing the attempt by one segment of society officially to control the plumage of another. On the
The prejudices invoked by the mere sight of non-conventional hair growth are deeply felt. Hair growth is symbolic to many of rebellion against traditional society and disapproval of the way the current power structure handles social problems. Taken as an affirmative declaration of an individual's commitment to a change in social values, nonconventional hair growth may become a very real personal threat to those who support the status quo. For those people, nonconventional hair growth symbolizes an undesirable lifestyle characterized by unreliability, dishonesty, lack of moral values, communal ("communist") tendencies, and the assumption of drug use. If the defendant, especially one being prosecuted for the illegal use of drugs, is not allowed even to make the most minimal inquiry to expose such prejudices, can it be expected that he will receive a fair trial?
Since hair growth is an outward manifestation by which many people determine whether to apply deep-rooted prejudices to an individual, to deny a defendant the right to examine this aspect of a prospective juror's personality is to deny him his most effective means of voir dire examination.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I, too, concur in that portion of the majority's opinion which holds that the trial judge was constitutionally compelled to inquire into the possibility of racial prejudice on
Long before the Sixth Amendment was made applicable to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968), this Court held that the right to an "impartial" jury was basic to our system of justice.
We have never suggested that this right to impartiality and fairness protects against only certain classes of prejudice or extends to only certain groups in the population. It makes little difference to a criminal defendant whether
Moreover, the Court has also held that the right to an impartial jury carries with it the concomitant right to take reasonable steps designed to insure that the jury is impartial. A variety of techniques is available to serve this end, see Groppi v. Wisconsin, 400 U.S. 505, 509-511 (1971); Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 357-363 (1966), but perhaps the most important of these is the jury challenge. See, e. g., Johnson v. Louisiana, 406 U.S. 356, 379 (1972) (opinion of POWELL, J.); Swain v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 202, 209-222 (1965). Indeed, the first Mr. Justice Harlan, speaking for a unanimous Court, thought that the right to challenge was "one of the most important of the rights secured to the accused" and that "[a]ny system for the empanelling of a jury that [prevents] or embarrasses the full, unrestricted exercise by the accused of that right, must be condemned." Pointer v. United States, 151 U.S. 396, 408 (1894). See also Lewis v. United States, 146 U.S. 370, 376 (1892).
Of course, the right to challenge has little meaning if it is unaccompanied by the right to ask relevant questions on voir dire upon which the challenge for cause can be predicated. See Swain v. Alabama, supra, at 221. It is for this reason that the Court has held that "[p]reservation of the opportunity to prove actual bias is a guarantee of a defendant's right to an impartial jury," Dennis v. United States, 339 U.S. 162,
I do not mean to suggest that a defendant must be permitted to propound any question or that limitless time must be devoted to preliminary voir dire. Although the defendant's interest in a jury free of prejudice is strong, there are countervailing state interests in the expeditious conduct of criminal trials and the avoidance of jury intimidation. These interests bulk larger as the possibility of uncovering prejudice becomes more attenuated. The trial judge has broad discretion to refuse to ask questions that are irrelevant or vexatious.
But broad as the judge's discretion is in these matters, I think it clear that it was abused in this case. The defense attorney wished to ask no more than four questions, which would have required a scant 15 additional
It may be that permitting slightly more extensive voir dire examination will put an additional burden on the administration of justice. But, as Mr. Chief Justice Hughes argued 40 years ago, "it would be far more injurious to permit it to be thought that persons entertaining a disqualifying prejudice were allowed to serve as jurors and that inquiries designed to elicit the fact of disqualification were barred. No surer way could be devised to bring the processes of justice into disrepute." Aldridge v. United States, 283 U. S., at 315.
I would therefore hold that the defendant in this case, and subject to the limitations set out above, had a constitutionally protected interest in having the judge propound the additional question, in some form, to the jury.
"1. Would you fairly try this case on the basis of the evidence and disregarding the defendant's race?
"2. You have no prejudice against negroes? Against black people? You would not be influenced by the use of the term `black'?
"3. Would you disregard the fact that this defendant wears a beard in deciding this case?
"4. Did you watch the television show about the local drug problem a few days ago when a local policeman appeared for a long time? Have you heard about that show? Have you read or heard about recent newspaper articles to the effect that the local drug problem is bad? Would you try this case solely on the basis of the evidence presented in this courtroom? Would you be influenced by the circumstances that the prosecution's witness, a police officer, has publicly spoken on TV about drugs?"
"1. Have you formed or expressed any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant, Gene Ham?
"2. Are you conscious of any bias or prejudice for or against him?
"3. Can you give the State and the defendant a fair and impartial trial?"