Six person criminal jury trial: The United States Supreme Court in Williams v Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 90 S Ct 1893, 26 L.Ed.2d 446 (1970) held that the constitutional guarantee of a trial by jury does not necessarily require a trial by exactly 12 persons. The State of Florida’s refusal to impanel more than the six members provided for by Florida law did not violate defendant's Sixth Amendment rights as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Contrarily, the ABA advocates 12 member juries in all non-petty criminal cases and in all civil cases whenever feasible. According to the ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials, larger juries deliberate longer, and have better recall of trial testimony, and are more likely to produce accurate results.
Is there some intrinsic value in a decision making body of twelve versus six? As long as arbitrary exclusions of a particular class from the jury rolls are forbidden, the concern that the cross-section will be significantly diminished if the jury is decreased in size from twelve to six seems an unrealistic one. A six person criminal jury trial with (or without) the further adoption by court rule and statute of reduced peremptory challenges would preserve the right to a jury trial of one’s peers. This author, acting as a district, probate and circuit judge, has seen no difference and found no persuasive authority that a verdict rendered in a six person probate, misdemeanor or civil matter has any less validity than that rendered by a twelve person jury panel. This author would also argue that minority representation, as a meaningful voice, carries less weight on the greater panel than does like service on the lesser panel.