Schowgurow v. Maryland, 240 Md. 121 (1965)
Maryland State Archives: Documents for the Classroom
350 Rowe Boulevard,
Annapolis, MD 21401
Attorneys: J. Grahame Walker & Roger Redden
Issue: Can the State constitutionally require jurors to profess
a belief in God?
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
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