In The

Supreme Court of the United States




Decided January 14, 1986

Justice O’Connor, Concurring


Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254 (1986), is a United States Supreme Court case, which held that a defendant's conviction must be reversed if members of their race were systematically excluded from the grand jury that indicted them, even if they were convicted following an otherwise fair trial.

Topic: Civil Rights*Court vote: 6–3
Note: No other Justices joined this opinion.
Holding: A defendant's conviction must be reversed if members of his own race were systematically excluded from the grand jury that indicted him, even if he was convicted following an otherwise fair trial.
Citation: 474 U.S. 254 Docket: 84–836Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database

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JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concurring in the judgment.

This Court has long held that upon proof of systematic exclusion of blacks from a grand jury issuing an indictment, the admittedly costly remedy of reversal of a conviction thereafter obtained through a fair trial is necessary in order to eradicate and deter such discrimination. Not until Rose v. Mitchell, 443 U. S. 545 (1979), however, did the Court squarely address the question whether, given the availability of this remedy on direct review, it is also necessary to make the same remedy available when the petitioner seeks to renew his claim of discriminatory exclusion on federal habeas corpus review. See id. at 443 U. S. 582 (POWELL, J., concurring in judgment).

I share the view expressed by JUSTICE POWELL in Rose: a petitioner who has been afforded by the state courts a full and fair opportunity to litigate the claim that blacks were discriminatorily excluded from the grand jury which issued the indictment should be foreclosed from relitigating that claim on federal habeas. The incremental value that continued challenges may have in rooting out and deterring such discrimination is outweighed by the unique considerations that apply when the habeas writ is invoked. The history and purposes of the writ, as well as weighty finality interests and considerations of federalism, counsel against permitting a petitioner to renew on habeas a challenge which does not undermine the justness of his trial, conviction, or incarceration. See id. at 443 U. S. 579 -588.

In this case, the District Court held that respondent was not given a full and fair hearing on his discriminatory exclusion claim in state court. See Hillery v. Pulley, 563 F.Supp. 1228 (ED Cal.1983). That holding was not altered on appeal, 733 F.2d 644 (CA9 1984), nor is it challenged by the petitioner in this Court. Respondent's claim was therefore cognizable in federal habeas proceedings. Because I am not convinced that a sufficiently compelling case has been made for reversing this Court's precedents with respect to the remedy applicable to properly cognizable claims of discriminatory exclusion of grand jurors, I concur in the judgment of the Court.

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