For YADJ: SKINNER V. OKLAHOMA 316 US 535, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 86 L.Ed.

1655 (1942) FACTS: Between 1926 and 1934, Petitioner Skinner had been convicted twice for Robbery with firearms and once for stealing chickens. Proceedings were instituted against him in 1936. Prior such proceedings,, “Oklahoma’s Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act” was enacted. It provided that a defendant, when found by the court to be a habitual criminal and that he may be rendered sterile without detriment to his general health, shall be ordered by the court to undergo a compulsory sterilization by operation of vasectomy or salpingectomy, in case of a man or a woman, respectively. A trial was held and the Court rendered a decision that the crimes which the Petitioner had been convicted involved moral turpitude and that the only question left was whether vasectomy could be performed to the petitioner without detriment to his health. The jury held in affirmative. A judgment was rendered, ordering that vasectomy be performed upon the petitioner. Petitioner Skinner challenged the constitutionality of the Act. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma affirmed the decision of the lower Court. The petitioner, together with other people objecting the constitutionality of the Act, thus filed a petition on the US Supreme Court. ISSUES: 1. Whether or not the Act is constitutional. 2. Whether or not the Act is a valid exercise of police power. 3. Whether or not the Act provides for the right to due process. 4. Whether or not the Act provides for equal protection. DECISION: The US Supreme Court held that the Act was unconstitutional on the ground that it was not a valid exercise of police power; it denied people covered by the Act of their right to due process; it provided for a cruel and unusual punishment; and, it was a violation of the equal protection clause. The Act was declared to be an invalid exercise of police power for the reason that, based on scientific studies, criminal traits cannot be inherited, making the means provided in the Act to be inappropriate for the ends that it sought to be achieved. The Act was furthermore held to be a violation of the right to due process for its failure to give the defendant an opportunity to answer as to whether or not he is a potential parent of a “socially undesirable offspring”. The Act was also rendered to be penal in character which provided for a cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court in rendering its opinion in the last issue supplied an example showing that the Act violated the equal protection clause. In Oklahoma, a person who committed grand larceny thrice or oftener is deemed to be a habitual criminal. However, embezzlement, when committed thrice, does not render the offender a habitual criminal. Though the nature of the two crimes was intrinsically similar and the terms of fines and imprisonment were identical, offender in grand larceny is subjected to the compulsory sterilization while the offender in embezzlement is immuned from such punishment. Thus, the Court held that the “guaranty of equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws.” When the law lays an unequal hand on those who have committed intrinsically the same quality of offenses and sterilizes one and not the other, it has made an erroneous discrimination as if it had selected particular race or nationality for oppressive treatment. Equal protection was indeed violated. The decision of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma was reversed.

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