Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to 8-person juries in criminal trials: Conservative Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh say they would have heard the Arizona case

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Over the dissent of two conservative justices, the Supreme Court refused on Nov. 7 to take up the case of a man who claimed that it was unconstitutional for Arizona to convict him using a jury made up of just eight people instead of the usual 12.

The ruling means that a handful of states may continue to use six- or eight-person juries in felony trials. Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Utah permit the practice, according to an NBC summary.

The ruling comes after the high court held 6–3 in Ramos v. Louisiana in April 2020 that convicting an accused person of a serious offense with a less-than-unanimous jury verdict, as Louisiana and Oregon had allowed, runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a right to a jury trial, as The Epoch Times reported.

Before the Ramos decision, in 48 states and in federal court, a single juror’s vote to acquit was enough to prevent a conviction. But Louisiana and Oregon had long punished people convicted with 10–2 verdicts.

In the case at hand, Khorrami v. Arizona, court file 21-1553, Amin Khorrami was convicted by an eight-member jury in May 2019 of two felonies in a blackmail scheme arising out of a failed romantic relationship.

Khorrami argued in court papers (pdf) that an Arizona law that provides that juries in criminal cases in which the maximum possible sentence is less than 30 years “shall consist of eight jurors” violated his Sixth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.

The Arizona Court of Appeals disagreed.

That court stated that it was bound by the Supreme Court’s 1970 precedent in Williams v. Florida, which determined that a 12-person jury “is not a necessary ingredient of [the Sixth Amendment’s] ‘trial by jury’” requirement. The appeals court noted that the Ramos ruling two years ago didn’t upend this analysis, as it involved “unanimous verdicts in criminal trials” and “the Supreme Court ‘does not normally overturn … earlier authority’” without being asked to do so.

The Supreme Court’s majority didn’t explain why it decided against hearing Khorrami’s appeal.

Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a strongly worded dissent (pdf) against the high court’s refusal to hear the case that was joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The Williams case was wrongly decided 52 years ago, Gorsuch wrote.

“For almost all of this Nation’s history and centuries before that, the right to trial by jury for serious criminal offenses meant the right to a trial before 12 members of the community,” the justice wrote.

“In 1970, this Court abandoned that ancient promise and enshrined in its place bad social science parading as law. That mistake continues to undermine the integrity of the Nation’s judicial proceedings and deny the American people a liberty their predecessors long and justly considered inviolable.”

The Epoch Times reached out for comment to lawyers for Khorrami and the state of Arizona but didn’t receive a reply from either by press time.

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Nov. 7, 2022, in The Epoch Times.

photo: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch