Schowgurow v. Maryland, 240 Md. 121 (1965)

Introduction

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 following National 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]

Primary Resources

  1. CECIL  COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Criminal Docket), 1964, No. 1040, State v. Schowgurow, MSA T 2955, MSA SC 2221-24-5-1.

  2. CECIL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Court Papers), 1964-1965, Criminal No. 1040, Criminal No. 1390, State v. Schowgurow,, MSA T 1836-63, MSA SC 2221-24-5-2.

  3. COURT OF APPEALS (Opinions), 1964, No. 368, Schowgurow v. Maryland, MSA S 393-318, MSA SC 2221-24-5-3.

  4. COURT OF APPEALS (Miscellaneous Papers), 1964, No. 368, Schowgurow v. Maryland, MSA 397-205, MSA SC 2221-24-5-4.

  5. GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS, COURT OF APPEALS (Maryland Reports), 1965-1966, vol. 240, pp. 121-139, Schowgurow v. State, MSA J 849, MSA SC 2221-24-5-5.

  6. COURT OF APPEALS (Briefs), 1964, Nos. 366-374, No. 368, Schowgurow v. Maryland, MSA T 2088, MSA SC 2221-24-5-6.

  7. GARRETT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Court Papers), 1965, No. 541, State v. Schowgurow, MSA T 2658-105

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Credits

Teaching 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 2221-12-23. 

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