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Patterson v. Alabama

Patterson's Case

Haywood Patterson was tried first. His defense attorneys asked that the case be thrown out on the grounds that no blacks had been on the first jury. The judge dismissed this objection, and an all-white jury was chosen a second time. Again, despite substantial evidence that suggested otherwise, Patterson was found guilty. Dismayed by this seemingly willful disregard for the evidence, the judge set aside the jury's verdict and ordered a new trial. For a third time, and again with a jury picked from a list that did not include blacks, Patterson was found guilty as charged. On 6 December 1933, Haywood Patterson was once again sentenced to death. He appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court of Alabama, which affirmed. Patterson then took his case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In presenting his case, Patterson contended that there was a long-standing, systematic, and arbitrary exclusion of qualified blacks from jury service, based solely on their race, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The state of Alabama argued on technical legal grounds that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over the case. Complicating matters further was the disposition of a second Scottsboro case, Norris v. Alabama (1935), argued purely on the merits and without the technical controversies.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Patterson v. Alabama - The Scottsboro Case, Patterson's Case, Norris Case Decided, Jury Nullification