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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Joseph McKeiver et al.
No. 128, In re Burrus et al.
(argued the cause for the petitioners in No. 128)
(Attorney General of North Carolina, argued the cause for the respondent in No. 128)
(argued the cause for the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges as amicus curiae urging affirmance in No. 128)
(argued the cause for the appellants in No. 322)
(argued the cause for the appellee in No. 322)
Facts of the Case 

These cases involve juveniles brought to trial without a jury. The first involves Joseph McKeiver and Edward Terry, fifteen and sixteen year old boys charged with acts of robbery, theft, assault, and escape. At trial before the Juvenile Court of Philadelphia, each was denied a request for a jury trial. A Superior Court affirmed the order, and, after consolidation of their cases, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania did likewise, saying there was no constitutional right to a jury trial for juveniles. In re Burrus concerns the consolidated cases of more than forty juveniles ranging in age from eleven to fifteen. Most of the juveniles faced misdemeanor charges stemming from protests of school consolidations that took place in November and December, 1968 during which, on six different occasions, they blocked traffic and refused to clear the roadway. Additionally, one sixteen-year-old juvenile faced charges of disorderly conduct for an incident that occurred at the local school. In each case, the judge denied a request for a jury trial. The Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of North Carolina both affirmed the lower court's decision, finding no constitutional requirement for a jury trial for juvenile defendants.


Does the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, as applied to the states by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, apply to juveniles?

Decision: 6 votes for Pennsylvania, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Right to Trial By Jury

No. In a 6-3 plurality opinion authored by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the Court concluded that the previous application of other criminal rights to juveniles, like rights to counsel and cross-examination, was done out of an emphasis on factfinding. "But one cannot say that in our legal system the jury is a necessary component of accurate factfinding." Additionally, the Court noted that, because juvenile prosecution is not considered either civil or criminal, the whole of the Sixth Amendment does not necessarily apply. As such, there is no requirement for a jury trial in juvenile cases.

Cite this Page
MCKEIVER v. PENNSYLVANIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
MCKEIVER v. PENNSYLVANIA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"MCKEIVER v. PENNSYLVANIA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,