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Ballew v. Georgia

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Significance: The Supreme Court held that juries must be composed of a minimum of six persons.


Historically, the Anglo-American trial jury has been composed of twelve members. In Williams v. Florida (1970), nevertheless, the Supreme Court approved of the use of six-person juries in all noncapital cases. The state of Georgia, attempting to save time and money, instituted a five-person jury for misdemeanor cases. By a 9-0 vote, the Court ruled that five-person juries were inconsistent with the demands of due process. Justice Harry A. Blackmun's opinion for the majority cited studies showing that the purpose and functioning of the jury “is seriously impaired” if the size is reduced to less than six members. Blackmun concluded that at least six jurors was necessary to promote group deliberation and to “to provide a representative cross section of the community.”