Schowgurow v. Maryland, 240 Md. 121 (1965)
Attorneys: J. Grahame Walker & Roger Redden
Issue: Can the State constitutionally require jurors to profess a
belief in God?
Summary: Lidge Schowgurow, a member of a Mongolian ethnic group in the
United States known as the Kalmyks, was convicted in 1964 of killing his wife.
The defendant was an adherent of the Buddhist faith, but under Article 36 of
the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Maryland required its jurors to
demonstrate a belief in God. In an earlier Maryland case which progressed to
the Supreme Court of the United States, Torcaso v. Watkins, 223 Md. 49, 162 A.
2d 438 (1960), the Supreme Court ruled that when this article of the
Declaration of Rights was used to contest the appointment of an atheistic
notary public, it was a violation of the appointee's freedom of belief. Based
on this decision, Judge Oppenheimer wrote the court's opinion which upheld Mr.
Schowgurow's challenges and dismissed his indictments. Mr. Schowgurow also
alleged that an incriminating statement he made was inadmissable, because he
had been denied a phone call to his family. The court maintained that the
defendant had been well-advised of his right to remain silent and that the
statement was voluntary and admissable. The case was remanded to the lower
courts and the defendant was re-tried and re-convicted.
National History Standards
Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the
History Standards for Grades 5-12:
Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)
STANDARD 2: Economic, social, and cultural
developments in contemporary United States.
Standard 2C: The student understands changing religious
diversity and its impact on American institutions and values.
5-12: Analyze how the new immigrants have affected
religious diversity. [Explain historical continuity and change]
9-12: Analyze the position of major religious groups on political and
social issues. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
CECIL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Criminal Docket), 1964, No. 1040, State v.
Schowgurow, MSA T 2955, MSA SC 2221-24-5-1.
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Court Papers), 1964-1965, Criminal No. 1040,
Criminal No. 1390, State v. Schowgurow,, MSA T 1836-63, MSA SC
OF APPEALS (Opinions), 1964, No. 368, Schowgurow v. Maryland, MSA S 393-318, MSA SC 2221-24-5-3.
OF APPEALS (Miscellaneous Papers), 1964, No. 368, Schowgurow v.
Maryland, MSA 397-205, MSA SC 2221-24-5-4.
PUBLICATIONS, COURT OF APPEALS (Maryland Reports), 1965-1966, vol. 240,
pp. 121-139, Schowgurow v. State, MSA J 849, MSA SC
OF APPEALS (Briefs), 1964, Nos. 366-374, No. 368, Schowgurow v.
Maryland, MSA T 2088, MSA SC 2221-24-5-6.
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Court Papers), 1965, No. 541, State v. Schowgurow, MSA T 2658-105
Copyright and Other Restrictions
Access to materials linked within these document packets is intended for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or holders of other rights (such as publicity and privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. The responsibility for making an independent legal assessment and independently securing any necessary rights rests with persons desiring to use particular items in the context of the intended use.
Password Access to Materials
The use of any user name and password to access materials on this web site constitutes an agreement by the user to abide by any and all copyright restrictions and is an acknowledgement that these materials will be used for personal and educational use only. In most instances, the username aaco and password aaco# will work. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or have difficulty accessing files.
American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.
Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Documents for the Classroom series of the Maryland State Archives was
designed and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse and Dr. M. Mercer Neale and
was prepared with the assistance of R. J. Rockefeller, Lynne MacAdam, Leigh
Bond, Matt Brown, Laura Lisy and other members of the Archives staff. MSA SC
For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Papenfuse at:
Phone: MD toll free 800-235-4045 or 410-260-6401