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

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

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

Ballew v. Georgia

No. 76-761

Argued November 1, 1977

Decided March 21, 1978

435 U.S. 223

Syllabus

Petitioner, who was charged with committing a misdemeanor, was tried before a five-person jury pursuant to Georgia law, and convicted. Though a criminal trial by a six-person jury is permissible under Williams v. Florida,399 U. S. 78, petitioner maintains that a trial before a jury of less than six is unconstitutional, a contention that the Georgia courts rejected.

Held: The judgment is reversed and the case is remanded. Pp. 435 U. S. 229-245; 435 U. S. 245; 435 U. S. 245-246.

138 Ga.App. 530, 227 S.E.2d 65, reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, joined by MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded that a criminal trial to a jury of less than six persons substantially threatens Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees. Georgia has presented no persuasive argument to the contrary. Neither the financial benefit nor the more dubious time-saving benefit claimed is a factor of sufficient significance to offset the substantial threat to the constitutional guarantees that reducing the jury from six to five would create. Pp. 435 U. S. 229-245.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE concluded that a jury of less than six would not satisfy the fair cross-section requirement of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. P. 435 U. S. 245.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST joined, concluded that, though the line between five- and six-member juries is difficult to justify, a line has to be drawn somewhere if the substance of jury trial in criminal cases is to be preserved. Pp. 435 U. S. 245-246.

BLACKMUN, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, in which STEVENS, J., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring statement, post, p. 435 U. S. 245. WHITE, J., filed a statement concurring in the judgment, post, p. 435 U. S. 245. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 435 U. S. 245. BRENNAN, J., filed a separate opinion, in which STEWART and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 435 U. S. 246.

Page 435 U. S. 224

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