Fifty years ago this month, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark civil rights decision, the first under the newly seated Chief Justice Earl Warren. A Mexican-American had not served on a jury in Jackson County in over 25 years and thus, Hernandez claimed that Mexican ancestry citizens were discriminated against as a special class in Jackson County. Seeing an opportunity, a team of Hispanic civil rights lawyers from the American G.I. Chief Justice Warren, in delivering the court's unanimous opinion on May 3, rejected the state's argument that the absence of Hispanics on juries was a coincidence and that in any case, they were represented because Mexican-Americans were legally classified as white. In reversing Mr. Hernandez's conviction, the court held that in excluding Hispanics from jury duty, Texas had unreasonably singled out a class of people for different treatment. It came at a time when the pillars of discrimination were set to topple in quick succession. The State of Texas denied their claim, arguing that Mexicans were white and the 14th amendment did not protect white nationality groups. He moved to quash his indictment and trial jury panel, alleging that the county that charged him systematically excluded Mexicans from serving as jury commissioners, grand jurors, and petit jurors. Ignacio Garcia, a history professor at Brigham Young University who is writing a book about the Hernandez case, said that it marked the first time Hispanic lawyers had argued before the Supreme Court. It prohibits racial discrimination in jury selection since states could no longer exclude citizens As for Mr. Hernandez, he was convicted in Mr. Espinosa's murder a second time, by a jury that included two Mexican-American men. He served his time, and then he disappeared. And in Jackson County, Tex., where Mexican-Americans made up 14 percent of the population by the early 1950's, not a single person with a Spanish surname had been allowed to serve on a jury in 25 years. Brown v. Board of Education, involving African-Americans and segregated schools, came two weeks later. Women began to serve on Texas juries in 1954, and their battle for inclusion would continue to be waged in the South for the next decade. They were forced to use segregated public restrooms and attend segregated schools. Hundreds of them were killed in lynchings. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court extended constitutional rights to Mexican Americans in the landmark civil rights case Hernandez v. Texas. 16. Unlike Brown, the case called Hernandez v. Texas has been mostly relegated to legal footnotes. Somehow, the transcripts of the Hispanic lawyers' oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Hernandez case and other records were lost. Pete Hernandez, a person of Mexican descent, was indicted for murder by a grand jury in Jackson County Texas. The Brown decision drew all of the nation's attention and set civil rights priorities along racial lines. In 1954, in Hernandez v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the conviction of an agricultural labourer, Pete Hernandez, for murder should be overturned because Mexican Americans had been barred from participating in both the jury that indicted him and the … But the case that bears his name does not deserve the same fate.
Hernandez was found guilty of murder and sentenced by the all-Anglo jury to life in prison. But this decision, which protected Mexican-Americans and the right to fair trials and helped widen the definition of discrimination beyond race, deserves more attention. Hernandez was indicted for murder by a grand jury, and he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The problem was that the 14th amendment was a special civil rights protection intended for blacks, and Pete Hernandez was white. Some 70 Texas counties had similar records of exclusion. Hernandez v. Texas was another case that helped to end racial discrimination in the judicial system and further provides equal protection of the laws for all Americans. The defendant, it said, had been deprived of the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, a guarantee ''not directed solely against discrimination between whites and Negroes.''. The trial court denied the motions. Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens filed a suit that finally reached the Supreme Court in early 1954. Today, the Hernandez case is little known even among civil rights experts. It ushered in an era of progress and hope whose promises we are still struggling to keep.
What is the significance of this case? The practice survived legal challenges until Pete Hernandez, a migrant cotton picker, was convicted by an all-Anglo jury in the murder of Joe Espinosa in Jackson County. But this decision, which protected Mexican-Americans and … In Texas and throughout much of the Southwestern United States in the first half of the 20th century, people of Mexican origin were subjected to discrimination and worse. Unlike Brown, the case called Hernandez v. Texas has been mostly relegated to legal footnotes. How did it change jury selection? After a trial by a jury, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.