The Fuller Court (1888–1910)

Criminal Justice

What Fuller Court decision upheld a state criminal conviction with only eight jurors?

The Fuller Court ruled 8–1 in Maxwell v. Dow (1900) that Utah courts did not violate the constitutional rights of defendant Charles Maxwell when he was convicted by an 8-member jury instead of a 12-member jury used in the federal courts. Maxwell alleged that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because he was prosecuted by an information instead of a grand jury indictment. In an information, a prosecutor submits the evidence to a judge for an initial threshold determination as to whether the prosecutor can proceed with the criminal charges.

The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Rufus Peckham, rejected Maxwell’s constitutional claims, reasoning that these rights were not extended to state court defendants via the Fourteenth Amendment. Peckham recognized that “a jury composed, as at common law, of twelve jurors was intended by the Sixth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, there can be no doubt.” However, Justice Peckham said that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the Sixth Amendment to the states and states could convict defendants with an 8-member jury.


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