The Fuller Court (1888–1910)

Criminal Justice

In what famous decision did the Fuller Court reject the equal protection claim of an African American defendant convicted by an all-white jury?

The Fuller Court unanimously ruled 9–0 in Williams v. Mississippi (1898) that defendant Henry Williams’s equal-protection rights were not violated when he was convicted by an all-white jury. Williams, an African American, asserted that his conviction violated the principles of equal protection because Mississippi’s jury system effectively prevented blacks from serving on juries and led to an all-white jury. The state had passed literacy and poll test requirements as an impediment for blacks that kept them from voting. The Court concluded that the Mississippi voting laws “do not on their face discriminate between the races, and it has not been shown that their actual administration was evil; only that evil was possible under them.”


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