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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 15 Jan 2014

-Wisconsin Assembly Passes 12-Member Jury in ALL Criminal Cases


Jury BoxFIJA National does not endorse or oppose any political party, candidate, or piece of legislation. We do, however, track for informational and educational purposes legislation regarding jury issues.

The Wisconsin State Assembly yesterday passed a bill replacing the current provision for a 6-person jury with a provision for 12-member juries in ALL criminal cases:

Wisconsin Assembly OKs bill establishing 12-person juries for all criminal cases

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that the Wisconsin Constitution requires a 12-person jury in all criminal cases and a law providing for a six-person jury in misdemeanor cases was unconstitutional.

The bill eliminates the six-person misdemeanor jury and sets the 12-person requirement for every criminal case unless the parties involved and a judge agree to reduce the number.

This measure passed the Assembly on a voice vote with no debate. It heads next to the Wisconsin Senate for consideration. We have not yet turned up a number for this bill, but will add it and a link to the measure as soon as we track one down.

Current Wisconsin law provides that:
“If the case is a misdemeanor case, the jury shall consist of 6 persons.”

FIJA co-founder and board member Don Doig explains the impact on the fairness of a trial for the defendant of halving the traditional size of the jury to just 6 members:

It is supposed to be difficult for the government to gain a conviction. If one juror out of twelve can hang a jury (8.3%), that effectively empowers a minority to protect their rights, obviously more so than one in six (16.7%). In addition to that, though, it is hard for one juror to stand alone. It is more likely that there will be two or three out of twelve wanting to acquit, than for there to be two out of six.

This is backed up by research. For example, a 1997 study by Professor of Law and Psychology Michael J. Saks and Professor of Psychology Mollie Weighner Marti entitled A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Jury Size indicated some important differences between 6-member and 12-member juries potentially affecting the fairness of the trial for the defendant. As opposed to 6-member juries, 12-member juries:
1. are more likely to include members of racial minorities,
2. deliberate longer,
3. may recall trial testimony more accurately, and
4. are more likely to deadlock than are 6-member juries. the impact on the fairness of a trial for the defendant of halving the traditional size of the jury to just 6 members: