Published on: Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review Arizona's use of eight-member criminal juries over the fierce objection of Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote in a dissent that the smaller panels flout centuries of formerly "inviolable" precedent (article available here).

Justice Gorsuch said the court should have taken up the case of Ramin Khorrami, an Arizona man convicted by an eight-member criminal jury of fraud and theft. Arizona is one of six states that allow six- or eight-person juries to hear felony cases.

"By the time of the Sixth Amendment's adoption, the 12-person criminal jury was 'an institution with a nearly 400-year-old tradition in England,'" the justice said. The dozen-member jury was "long and justly considered inviolable," he said, suggesting the framers may have taken it as so obvious and accepted they didn't think it needed spelling out.

Smaller juries are "less likely to include members of 'minority groups' and thus threaten to deprive defendants of a fair possibility of obtaining a jury composed of a representative cross-section of the community," Gorsuch wrote Monday.

Monday's dissent noted that Justice Brett Kavanaugh also would have voted to take up the case.

The other five states that allow felony juries of fewer than 12 are Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Utah, according to the Supreme Court petition.

The case is Khorrami v. Arizona, case number 21-1553, in the U.S. Supreme Court.