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.
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.