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Patterson v. Alabama

The Scottsboro Case, Patterson's Case, Norris Case Decided, Jury Nullification


Haywood Patterson


State of Alabama

Petitioner's Claim

That the exclusion of blacks from a jury list should invalidate the conviction of a black defendant.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Walter H. Pollak

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Thomas E. Knight, Jr.

Justices for the Court

Louis D. Brandeis, Pierce Butler, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Charles Evans Hughes (writing for the Court), Owen Josephus Roberts, Harlan Fiske Stone, George Sutherland, Willis Van Devanter

Justices Dissenting

None (James Clark McReynolds did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

1 April 1935


Hayward Patterson's conviction was overturned based on evidence of the systematic exclusion of blacks from jury duty.


The Supreme Court's decision in Patterson v. Alabama was the second of two important rulings it would issue in the Scottsboro rape case. The controversial trials galvanized the country and highlighted the problem of racial justice in the American South. The Scottsboro trials became emblematic of judicial miscarriage and a rallying cry for civil rights leaders for years to come.


In the case of Patterson v. Alabama the Supreme Court attempted to correct what it perceived to be a gross injustice. In overlooking the technical defects of Patterson's case, the Court signaled that it would not let fidelity to arcane legal protocols prevent it from exonerating an individual from execution.

Related Cases

  • Norris v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 599 (1935).
  • Villa v. Van Schaick, 299 U.S. 152 (1936).
  • People v. Wilson, 318 U.S. 688 (1943).
  • Tinder v. United States, 345 U.S. 565 (1953).


Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA). http://www.primenet.com/~slack.

Further Readings

  • Carter, Dan T. Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State Press, 1979.
  • Chandler, Ralph C. The Constitutional Law Dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1987.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940