Is the Supreme Court Sometimes Irrelevant?: Race and the Southern Criminal Justice System in the World War Ii Era
81 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2003
This article considers the impact of Supreme Court criminal procedure decisions on the treatment of blacks by the southern criminal justice system. It considers decisions in the areas of coerced confessions, race discrimination in jury selection, the right to counsel, and the right against mob-dominated trials. The article finds that these Supreme Court rulings had almost no impact. Blacks continued to be almost entirely excluded from juries in criminal cases; law enforcement officers continued to beat black defendants into confessing; and court-appointed white lawyers turned in sham performances. The article also considers the indirect effects of these decisions and the litigation that produced them. Here, the rulings may have been more consequential, in terms of educating blacks about their rights, mobilizing social protest, facilitating NAACP branch-building and fund-raising, and instructing oblivious whites about the egregiousness of Jim Crow conditions. Finally, the article considers why Supreme Court criminal procedure rulings were so much less efficacious (for southern blacks) than contemporaneous Court decisions invalidating the white primary and mandating the admission of blacks to southern public universities.
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