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Alston v. Manson

May 23, 1986

MICHAEL ALSTON, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN R. MANSON, COMMISSIONER, CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT; JAMES HASKINS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, V. JOHN R. MANSON, COMMISSIONER, CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



John R. Manson, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction, appeals from judgments of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (T. F. Gilroy Daly, Chief Judge), granting Alston's and Haskins's petitions for writs of habeas corpus. Affirmed. Judge Miner dissents in a separate opinion.

Author: Kaufman

Before: KAUFMAN, TIMBERS and MINER, Circuit Judges.

KAUFMAN, Circuit Judge:

Drawn from hamlet and metropolis alike, jurors daily give life to the ancient right, enshrined in the Magna Carta and the Constitution, to a trial by jury of one's peers. Although now summoned by statute instead of the medieval sheriff's write of venire facias, a representative jury array remains the expression of the community's role in securing this fundamental right. Accordingly, both the sixth and fourteenth amendments mandate that prospective jurors be chosen free of the taint of racial discrimination.

It is the interplay of these two provisions that is now before us. The State of Connecticut appeals from judgments of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, granting Alston's and Haskins's petitions for writs of habeas corpus. Using modern statistical data, the district court ruled that the jury selection system employed in 1975 in Connecticut state court, where the petitioners were tried, violated the equal protection clause. Agreeing with Chief Judge Daly's analysis, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

A brief factual statement is necessary to understand the law in this complex area. In Connecticut, each county compiles a jury array. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 51-217 et seq. Each town in the county, in turn, furnishes a number of prospective jurors. Unfortunately, section 51-220 established a strict quota system which favored representation of the smaller towns. As an illustration, the smallest town in New Haven County, Beacon Falls, contributed 4.2% of its adult population to the array. In contrast, New Haven, the largest town, was limited by statute to assigning a mere 1.1% of its adults. It is undisputed that a larger concentration of the black population in Connecticut lives in the more populated urban settings. Accordingly, § 51-220 was repealed in 1982. Conn. Public Act 82-307 § 2.

The jury that convicted Michael Alston and James Haskins, however, was chosen from an array skewed in favor of the white majority. Alston, Haskins, and a co-defendant were convicted in state court of assaulting two police officers while fleeing the scene of a New Haven bank robbery. Each had previously been convicted in federal court of the underlying robbery. Both Alston and Haskins appealed their convictions to the Connecticut Supreme Court, presenting, inter alia, the same constitutional grounds supporting their subsequent habeas corpus petitions. The supreme court ruled that the jury selection system passed constitutional muster. State v. Haskins, 188 Conn. 432, 436-41, 450 A.2d 828 (1982). Currently, Alston is on parole from both his state and federal convictions. Haskins is still incarcerated in federal prison and has not yet begun to serve his state sentence of ten years.

Subsequently, Alston and Haskins filed habeas corpus petitions in United States district court. The petitions contended, inter alia, that the statutory scheme for selecting the array evidenced an intent to discriminate against blacks in contravention of the equal protection clause. They also argued that blacks were substantially underrepresented among the potential jurors, a violation of the sixth amendment. At a later hearing, a professor of statistics from Yale University testified to the adverse effect upon black representation produced by the existing town quotas. The statistician estimated the number of blacks summoned was 368. In the absence of § 51-220, however, the number would have been closer to 501. The total number in the array was 8,405.

Relying on these figures, the district judge decided the Connecticut plan violated the fourteenth amendment. Employing the three-prong test set forth in Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 51 L. Ed. 2d 498, 97 S. Ct. 1272 (1977), Chief Judge Daly found the petitioners had established a prima facie case of racial discrimination, and that the State had failed to rebut this showing. Alston v. Lopes, 621 F. Supp. 992 (D.Conn. 1985)

The district court easily found the first and third branches of the Castaneda test had been satisfied. The first requirement is that the excluded group be cognizable. Because blacks comprised the group underrepresented, this standard was clearly met. Similarly, the third part of the standard, establishing that the selection procedure was not racially neutral, was also on firm footing. All parties agree a high proportion of blacks live in the City of New Have, and that the quota system could not help but partially exclude them.

The district court, therefore, devoted most of its analysis to the second Castaneda standard: whether the underrepresentation of blacks was substantial. Through the use of an established and accepted data device, Statistical Decision Theory, the district judge determined that the odds against chance alone accounting for the low number of blacks were simply astronomical. Indeed, Chief Judge Daly noted the likelihood of only 368 blacks appearing as potential jurors was three chances in one billion.

Having found that Alston and Haskins had established a prima facie case of intentional discrimination, the district court then inquired whether the State had rebutted that showing. Connecticut, however, persisted in asserting that the discrepancy was due to the voter registration lists instead of the town quota system. But, Chief Judge Daly observed that blacks would be underrepresented even if the use of voter rolls was abandoned, and accordingly deemed the State's argument inapposite. As a result, the district court found that ...


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