Ballew v. Georgia 435 U.S. 223 (1978)

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BALLEW v. GEORGIA 435 U.S. 223 (1978)

In Ballew v. Georgia, the Supreme Court unanimously held that a five-person jury in a nonpetty criminal case does not satisfy the right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment as applied to the states through the four-teenth amendment. Ballew involved a misdemeanor conviction for exhibiting an obscene motion picture.

Although all the Justices agreed upon the result, four separate opinions were written on the five-person jury issue. Justice harry a. blackmun joined by Justice john paul stevens relied heavily on social science research in concluding that there was substantial doubt that a five-person jury functioned effectively, was likely to reach accurate results, or truly represented the community. Justice byron r. white concluded that a jury of less than six would fail to represent the sense of the community. Justice lewis f. powell joined by Chief Justice warren e. burger and Justice william h. rehnquist agreed that five-person juries raised "grave questions of fairness" indicating that "a line has to be drawn somewhere if the substance of jury trial is to be preserved." Since an earlier case, williams v. florida (1970), had upheld the constitutionality of six-person juries, the effect of Ballew was to draw the constitutional line between five and six.

Norman Abrams
(1986)

(see also: Jury Size.)

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Ballew v. Georgia 435 U.S. 223 (1978)

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