Williams v. Florida 399 U.S. 78 (1970)

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WILLIAMS v. FLORIDA 399 U.S. 78 (1970)

The rule of Williams is that trial by a jury of six in a noncapital felony case does not violate the constitutional right to trial by jury in a state prosecution. Trial by jury had historically meant trial by a jury of twelve, neither more nor less. Justice byron r. white for the Supreme Court found no rationale for the figure of twelve, which he called "accidental" and "superstitious." If Congress enacted a statute providing for juries of less than twelve in federal prosecutions, the Sixth Amendment would be no bar, according to this case. A jury of six is practical: it can be selected in half the time, costs only half as much, and may reach its verdict more quickly. According to White, "there is no discernible difference between the results reached by the two different-sized juries," but in fact a jury of six hangs less frequently, significantly changes the probability of conviction, and convicts different persons. White claimed that the size of the jury should be large enough to promote group deliberation and allow for a representative cross-section of the community, and he claimed that a jury of six serves those functions as well as a jury of twelve. In fact the Court was wrong. Only Justice thurgood marshall dissented on the question of jury size, in an opinion that rested strictly on precedent. Williams also contended that Florida violated his right against self-incrimination by its notice-of-alibi rule, but he convinced only Justices hugo l. black and william o. douglas.

Leonard W. Levy

(see also: Jury Size.)

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Williams v. Florida 399 U.S. 78 (1970)

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