The 'red menace' on trial: jury discrimination in Dennis

Article


Falk, Barbara J. and Patrick, Jeremy. 2016. "The 'red menace' on trial: jury discrimination in Dennis." University of La Verne Law Review. 37, pp. 285-304. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2627030
Article Title

The 'red menace' on trial: jury discrimination in Dennis

ERA Journal ID34035
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsFalk, Barbara J. (Author) and Patrick, Jeremy (Author)
Journal TitleUniversity of La Verne Law Review
Journal Citation37, pp. 285-304
Number of Pages20
Year2016
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISSN0160-2098
1944-382X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2627030
Web Address (URL)https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2627030
Abstract

In 1949, the leadership of the American Communist Party was put on trial for allegedly conspiring to teach the overthrow of the American government. The case, known as the Dennis trial, is a major part of American political and Cold War history. One of the rarely-discussed aspects of the case, however, is that the defendants argued that the jury was stacked against them: it would be composed almost exclusively of wealthy white men. The defendants' claim of jury discrimination was denied, but it can be seen as a vital step towards reforming New York's Blue Ribbon Panel system of jury selection, eventual Congressional legislation to end bias in jury selection, and the slow recognition by the Supreme Court that jury discrimination was more pervasive than previously thought. This Article is the first scholarly effort to explain the nature of the jury challenge in Dennis and situate the defendants' failure as part of a larger narrative of discrimination and injustice. Section II of this Article provides background on the case and establishes its importance as one of the most significant political trials of the twentieth century. Section III traces the evolution of Supreme Court jurisprudence on jury discrimination prior to the Dennis case. Section IV explains the peculiar Blue Ribbon Panel system of jury selection used in New York at the time for cases seen by the court system as especially serious or important. Section V dives into the heart of the Dennis defendants' claim that a skewed selection process would result in a jury that was almost wholly white, male, and upper-class. Last, Section VI discusses the aftermath of the Dennis trial and its importance both historically and legally.

Keywordscommunism; juries; discrimination; show trial; cold war
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020480702. Constitutional law
489999. Other law and legal studies not elsewhere classified
480504. Legal institutions (incl. courts and justice systems)
430321. North American history
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Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Byline AffiliationsRoyal Military College of Canada, Canada
School of Law and Justice
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