The Burger Court (1969–86)

Criminal Law and Procedure

Did the Burger Court invalidate state laws providing for less than twelve jurors in criminal cases?

No, the Burger Court ruled in Williams v. Florida (1970) that a Florida law providing for six-member juries in noncapital cases was constitutional. The Court ruled that twelve-person juries were a “historical accident” and “unrelated to the great purposes which gave rise to the jury in the first place.” However, in Ballew v. Georgia (1978), the Court ruled that five-person juries in criminal cases were unconstitutional. “Statistical studies suggest that the risk of convicting an innocent person rises as the size of the jury diminishes,” Justice Harry Blackmun wrote for the majority.


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