The Law: Half a Jury Is Better Than None

Twelve has long been a magic number. There were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles, twelve months in the Julian calendar and twelve signs of the zodiac. In U.S. federal courts, criminal defendants are entitled to twelve jurors, and most states follow the same practice. Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the tradition of twelve jurors may be ignored by the states.

At issue was the case of one Johnny Williams, who was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of robbery by a six-man jury in Florida —one of the 13 states that provide juries as small as...

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