Supreme Court Leaves Decision on 12-Person Juries for State Felony Cases Unresolved

The Supreme Court has decided not to address the issue of whether state court juries should consist of 12 members when deliberating serious criminal charges. This decision comes after a series of appeals challenging Florida’s use of six-member juries have been pending for months. Six states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Utah, allow for six- or eight-member juries in felony cases.

The criminal defendants have argued that this practice violates the 6th Amendment. Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed his dissent from the decision not to take up the cases, stating his hope that the question will be addressed in the future. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that no individual is sent to prison without the unanimous agreement of 12 of their peers.

Florida officials defended their use of six-member juries, citing a longstanding practice that dates back to 1877. They highlighted that approximately 5,000 criminal convictions were pending appeal due to this issue. However, opponents of the practice argue that it has its origins in the Jim Crow-era and was designed to prevent Black Americans from serving on juries.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to address the issue echoes a similar decision regarding Arizona in 2022. Justices Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh indicated their willingness to hear the case, criticizing a 1970 precedent that allowed for fewer than 12 jurors. Gorsuch argued that this opinion undermines the integrity of the American criminal justice system and the rights of those facing the courts.

As the debate over the composition of state court juries continues, the implications of these decisions remain significant. The unresolved question of whether 12-person juries should be mandatory in felony cases raises concerns about the fairness and representation within the criminal justice system. It remains to be seen how this issue will evolve in the future.