Posted by: coastcontact | June 21, 2013

George Zimmerman has a Jury of Six

July 13, 2013

George Zimmerman found innocent!

Six women were selected yesterday to serve on the Florida jury that will decide if George Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

I was surprised to learn that the Zimmerman murder trial in Florida consists of only six people on the jury.  I had always believed a jury must consist of 12 people.

From Exploring Constitutional Conflicts I have learned the following:

The Court (Supreme Court) had long taken the position that a jury in a criminal case must have 12 members. In 1898, the Court said, “a jury comprised of 12 persons, neither more or less” was a constitutional requirement. In 1970, in Williams v Florida, they Court reconsidered its earlier statements on jury size in a case that affirmed the conviction of a robber convicted by a six-member Florida jury. The Court noted that the Sixth Amendment says nothing at all about jury size, even though 12 person-juries had been traditionally used in America. The expectation that a jury consists of 12 members dated back to the 1300s, but the Court found that to be a “historical accident.” Concluding that a six-person jury could fulfill the framers’ expectations concerning a jury’s functions just as well as a 12-person jury, the Court rejected its prior words on the subject and held that six-person juries satisfy the requirements of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Harlan harshly criticized the majority’s reasoning, asking where and how the Court might draw the line on jury size. Would a three-person jury be okay, he wondered?

California does use the 12 person jury.  Criminal cases must have a unanimous verdict.  Civil cases require a nine person majority.  Nowhere does the United States Constitution say that a jury has to consist of 12 people.

For thousands of years, though, civilizations have given great mystical prominence to an even dozen. The 12 days of Christmas. The 12 hours on the clock. The 12 tribes of Israel. Twelve months of the year, 12 houses of an astrological chart. A baker’s dozen.

And 12 jurors. That’s the tradition and the law in most states. An ancient Welsh king, Morgan of Gla-Morgan, who established trial by jury in A.D. 725, is said to have declared, “For as Christ and his 12 apostles were finally to judge the world, so human tribunals should be composed of the king and 12 wise men.”

Convincing six people of anything is defintiely easier than convincing twelve.  It seems to me that erring on the side of a person is innocent until proven guilty the Supreme Court would have upheld the 12 person requirement.

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Responses

  1. Very good posting, and one that raises many questions about the ability in Florida to get ‘justice’

  2. In most states a jury consists of twelve people. To obtain a criminal conviction all twelve must find the defendant guilty. That is a difficult task. Six to find guilt. Much easier. Draw your own conclusions about Florida and other states that do not have the higher bar.

  3. Juries range in size according to their nature. Grand juries are so named because they are usually larger than petit juries, having from 12 to 23 members. Traditionally, petit juries have had 23 members, but the number is not fixed. In 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the number 12 was not an essential element of trial by jury (Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 90 S. Ct. 1893, 26 L. Ed. 2d 446), and it has sanctioned juries of no fewer than six members in criminal cases (Ballew v. Georgia, 435 U.S. 223, 98 S. Ct. 1029, 55 L. Ed. 2d 234 [1978]). Parties in federal district courts, as well as in many state courts, can stipulate that the jury size be any number between six and 12. Commonly, federal district court juries consist of six persons for civil cases.

  4. When the jury has been selected, the following oath shall be administered them by the court or under its direction: “You and each of you do solemnly swear upon the United America and our common Charter, that in the case of (name of case) against the defendant, you will a true verdict render according to the law and the evidence, so help you”.

  5. While jury trials held in district court consist of 12 jurors, jury trials in county courts, probate courts, justice of the peace, and municipal courts consist of 6 jurors. To return a valid verdict in criminal trials, jurors must reach a unanimous verdict. In civil trials, agreement of just five sixths of the jurors is sufficient to reach a valid verdict.

  6. Uhhhhh, Uh oh! Trayvon already got justice—from Zimmerman’s gun. No “tragedy” here. Trayvon was a drug-dealing, thieving, violent punk, who picked the wrong Mexican to try to kill. The Lord, in all his goodness, mercy and justice, delivered us George Zimmerman, a brave warrior who exterminated Trayvon for his evil, crime and hatred. Well done, Zimmerman! The Lord is with you.

  7. At the very least George Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter.


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