On This Date in Legal History

On November 20, 1961, the United States Supreme Court decided Hoyt v. Florida. The case involved an all-male jury convicting Gwendolyn Hoyt of killing her husband. In Florida women were excluded from jury service unless they proactively registered with the clerk of the court. Consequently, there were disproportionately more men in the jury pool. Hoyt argued the lack of women on her jury left her at a disadvantage. She felt “women jurors would have been more understanding or compassionate than men in assessing the quality of [her] act and her defense of ‘temporary insanity.’” She claimed that Florida jury law violated her equal protection rights. The Supreme Court (unanimously) disagreed.

JOHN M. HARLAN II

JOHN M. HARLAN II

Justice Harlan explained–  the Constitution “does not entitle one accused of [a] crime to a jury tailored to the circumstances of the particular case, whether relating to the sex or other condition of the defendant, or to the nature of the charges to be tried.” The Court also found that it was reasonable to exempt women from jury service–because unlike men, “they were responsible for home and family life.” Hoyt’s conviction was affirmed. Listen to the attorneys argue this case at http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1961/1961_31. Notably, this case has been overturned.

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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