Monday, July 15, 2013
From Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy:
As I noted in this post, while many states allow six-person juries in misdemeanor cases (or in relatively less serious felony cases), very few allow them for very serious felonies, such as murder, for which Zimmerman is being tried. Only Connecticut and Florida provide for a six-person jury for very serious but noncapital felonies, and only Florida provides for a six-person jury when the offenses is punishable by life imprisonment (with or without parole); Utah apparently provides for an eight-person jury.
Naturally, having a six-person jury rather than a twelve-person jury makes it more likely that the jury will have an unusual demographic mix, such as the Zimmerman jury, which is all female and apparently has no blacks (it apparently consists of five white women and one Hispanic woman). And while such unusual demographic mixes are always possible, and verdicts handed down by such juries are obviously legally effective, it is probably better for the credibility of the legal system — and possibly for its accuracy — for such unusual mixes to be rarer. Using the traditional 12-person jury will likely better accomplish this than using a 6-person jury.