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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
Location: Trial Court
Facts of the Case 

Burch was found guilty by a nonunanimous six-member jury of showing obscene films. The court imposed a suspended prison sentence of two consecutive seven- month terms and fined him $1,000.


Does a conviction by a nonunanimous six-member jury in a state criminal trial for a nonpetty offense violate the accused's right to a trial by jury as protected by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Decision: 9 votes for Burch, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Right to Trial By Jury

The Court found that convictions by the nonunanimous six-member jury violated the Constitution. Tracing the development of the Court's considerations of this issue, Justice Rehnquist indicated that Burch's case sat at the "intersection of our decisions concerning jury size and unanimity." Rehnquist relied on the Court's holding in Ballew v. Georgia (1978) and the practices in several of the states to find against convictions by nonunanimous juries of six members. Only two of the states that used six-member juries in trials for petty offenses allowed verdicts to be less than unanimous. This "near uniform judgment of the Nation" of the inappropriateness of this jury arrangement, argued Rehnquist, provided the Court with a "useful guide" in determining constitutionally allowable jury practices.

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BURCH v. LOUISIANA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_78_90>.
BURCH v. LOUISIANA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_78_90 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"BURCH v. LOUISIANA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1978/1978_78_90.