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Jury: Legal Aspects

Jury Size

Although the Supreme Court previously said that the Sixth Amendment required juries of twelve, the Court in 1970 declared this traditional number a "historical accident, wholly without significance except to mystics." It concluded in Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970), that the Constitution allowed juries of six. In support of its claim that there was "no discernable difference between the results reached by the two different-sized juries," the Court cited studies that seemed to most observers to establish just the opposite. The Court declared that a jury of six was "large enough to promote group deliberation, free from outside attempts at intimidation, and to provide a fair possibility of obtaining a representative cross section of the community."

One critic of Williams titled his paper "And Then There Were None" (Zeisel). Nevertheless, in Ballew v. Georgia, 435 U.S. 223 (1978), a unanimous Court held five-person juries impermissible. A great many states now use six-person juries, especially in misdemeanor prosecutions. Only seven states expressly require twelve-person juries in all cases, but other states permit departures from this historic number only with the defendant's consent. (Miller).

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawJury: Legal Aspects - Origins, The Scope Of The Right, Jury Size, Unanimity, Vicinage, Selecting Jurors