Ballew v. Georgia Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Claude Davis Ballew, who was charged with committing a misdemeanor, was tried before a five-person jury pursuant to Georgia law, and convicted. Though a criminal trial by a six-person jury is permissible under, Ballew maintains that a trial before a jury of less than six people is unconstitutional, a contention that the Georgia courts rejected.




Yes. The Court found that a trial by jury of less than six members violated the accused’s right to a trial by jury as protected by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Blackmun reasoned that small juries foster poor group deliberation. Group memory of the details of testimony, the ease with which group compromises can be made, and the desire of the group to be self-critical and reflective are all hindered as the size of the jury decreases. Blackmun also relied on statistical studies to claim that the risk of jury error increased with smaller juries.

Case Information

Citation: 435 US 223 (1978)
Argued: Nov 1, 1977
Decided: Mar 21, 1978
Case Brief: 1978