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Burch v. Louisiana

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Title: Burch v. Louisiana  
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Subject: List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 441
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Burch v. Louisiana

Burch v. Louisiana
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued February 22, 1979
Decided April 17, 1979
Full case name Burch v. Louisiana
Citations 441 more)
99 S. Ct. 1623, 60 L. Ed. 2d 96
Prior history Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Louisiana
A conviction by a nonunanimous six-person jury in a state criminal trial for a nonpetty offense violates the right of an accused to trial by jury guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Burger, White, Blackmun, Powell, Stevens
Concurrence Brennan, joined by Stewart, Marshall
Laws applied
Sixth Amendment Fourteenth Amendment

Burch v. Louisiana, 441 U.S. 130 (1979), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court that invalidated a Louisiana statute allowing a conviction upon a nonunanimous verdict from a jury of six for a petty offense. The statute allowed for conviction if only five jurors agreed, and this was held to be a violation of the Sixth Amendment.[1]


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

Question Before the Court

Does a conviction by a nonunanimous six-member jury in a state criminal trial for a nonpetty offense violate Burch's Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury as applied to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision of the Court

Justice Rehnquist cited Ballew v. Georgia 435 U.S. 223 (1978) noting that only two other states in the country allowed for a non unanimous decision from a non-six person jury in a non-petty offense. This "near uniform judgment of the Nation" gave the Court a "useful guide" in determining constitutionally allowable in jury practices[2][3]


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