The United States Supreme Court Monday denied the appeal of Ramin Khorrami, an Arizona man who was convicted of fraud before an eight-member jury. Khorrami seeks a new trial, arguing that his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because he was deprived of a trial before a 12-member jury. If it had chosen to hear the case, the court could have decided whether it is inherent within the Constitution that criminal defendants are entitled to a trial by a jury of 12 or more members of the community.
Six states in the US allow for trials before six or eight-person juries in felony cases: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Utah. This deviation from the standard 12-person jury was permitted by the 1970 US Supreme Court ruling in Williams v. Florida.
Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh dissented to the court’s denial. While Kavanaugh did not state his reason for dissenting, Gorsuch wrote that the “right to trial by jury for serious criminal offenses meant a trial before 12 members of the community — nothing less” and that the ruling in Williams “impairs both the integrity of the American criminal justice system and the liberties of those who come before our Nation’s courts.”
Gorsuch also said that, although the Sixth Amendment does not explicitly state that a person is entitled to a trial before a jury of 12 members of the community, it is suggested that both at the time of the amendment’s adoption and throughout US history the “right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury” meant a trial before 12 members of the community.
Because the court denied Khorrami’s appeal, states are still permitted to conduct criminal trials with juries of as few as six people.