Back to the Library
Moments in History: Jenner & Block's 100-Year StoryVictory in Witherspoon Case Reforms Jury Selection Process in Capital Cases
June marks the 48th anniversary of the firm’s victory on behalf of pro bono client William Witherspoon before the US Supreme Court. The case would have major implications for how juries are selected in capital cases throughout the nation. In 1960, a jury sentenced Witherspoon to death. The jury was selected in a process that permitted the prosecution an unlimited number of challenges for cause with respect to any potential juror who expressed qualms about the death penalty. As a result, the jury that sentenced Witherspoon to death was composed only of people who had no qualms about capital punishment. Jenner & Block represented Mr. Witherspoon in a post-conviction review that successfully challenged the constitutionality of this process.
Please click here to read more about the case. Click here to read the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Witherspoon. Click here for a recording of Mr. Jenner’s oral argument presented to the Court.