U.S. Supreme Court

APODACA v. OREGON, 406 U.S. 404 (1972)

406 U.S. 404


Argued March 1, 1971 Reargued January 10, 1972
Decided May 22, 1972

MR. JUSTICE WHITE announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST joined.

Robert Apodaca, Henry Morgan Cooper, Jr., and James Arnold Madden were convicted respectively of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary in a dwelling, and grand larceny before separate Oregon juries, all of which returned less-than-unanimous verdicts. The vote in the cases of Apodaca and Madden was 11-1, while the vote in the case of Cooper was 10-2, the minimum requisite vote under Oregon law for sustaining a conviction. After their convictions had been affirmed and review had been denied by the Supreme Court of Oregon, all three sought review in this Court upon a claim that conviction of crime by a less-than-unanimous jury violates the right to trial by jury in criminal cases specified by the Sixth Amendment and made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth. We granted certiorari to consider this claim, which we now find to be without merit.

In Williams v. Florida (1970), we had occasion to consider a related issue: whether the Sixth Amendment's right to trial by jury requires that all juries consist of 12 men. After considering the history of the 12-man requirement and the functions it performs in contemporary society, we concluded that it was not of constitutional stature. We reach the same conclusion today with regard to the requirement of unanimity. 


Like the requirement that juries consist of 12 men, the requirement of unanimity arose during the Middle Ages and had become an accepted feature of the common-law jury by the 18th century. But, as we observed in Williams, "the relevant constitutional history casts considerable doubt on the easy assumption . . . that if a given feature existed in a jury at common law in 1789, then it was necessarily preserved in the Constitution." The most salient fact in the scanty history of the Sixth Amendment, which we reviewed in full in Williams, is that, as it was introduced by James Madison in the House of Representatives, the proposed Amendment provided for trial "by an impartial jury of freeholders of the vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction, of the right of challenge, and other accustomed requisites . . . ." 

Although it passed the House with little alteration, this proposal ran into considerable opposition in the Senate, particularly with regard to the vicinage requirement of the House version....
As we observed in Williams, one can draw conflicting inferences from this legislative history. One possible inference is that Congress eliminated references to unanimity and to the other "accustomed requisites" of the jury because those requisites were thought already to be  implicit in the very concept of jury. A contrary explanation, which we found in Williams to be the more plausible, is that the deletion was intended to have some substantive effect. Surely one fact that is absolutely clear from this history is that, after a proposal had been made to specify precisely which of the common-law requisites of the jury were to be preserved by the Constitution, the Framers explicitly rejected the proposal and instead left such specification to the future. As in Williams, we must accordingly consider what is meant by the concept "jury" and determine whether a feature commonly associated with it is constitutionally required. And, as in Williams, our inability to divine "the intent of the Framers" when they eliminated references to the "accustomed requisites" requires that in determining what is meant by a jury we must turn to other than purely historical considerations.


Our inquiry must focus upon the function served by the jury in contemporary society. As we said in Duncan, the purpose of trial by jury is to prevent oppression by the Government by providing a "safeguard against the corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against the compliant, biased, or eccentric judge." "Given this purpose, the essential feature of a jury obviously lies in the interposition between the accused and his accuser of the commonsense judgment of a group of laymen . . . ."  A requirement of unanimity, however, does not materially contribute to the exercise of this commonsense judgment. As we said in Williams, a jury will come to such a judgment as long as it consists of a group of laymen representative of a cross section of the community who have the duty and the opportunity to deliberate, free from outside attempts at intimidation, on the question of a defendant's guilt. In terms of this function we perceive no difference between juries required to act unanimously and those permitted to convict or acquit by votes of 10 to two or 11 to one. Requiring unanimity would obviously produce hung juries in some situations where nonunanimous juries will convict or acquit. But in either case, the interest of the defendant in having the judgment of his peers interposed between himself and the officers of the State who prosecute and judge him is equally well served.


Petitioners nevertheless argue that unanimity serves other purposes constitutionally essential to the continued operation of the jury system. Their principal contention is that a Sixth Amendment "jury trial" made mandatory on the States by virtue of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment should be held to require a unanimous jury verdict in order to give substance to the reasonable-doubt standard otherwise mandated by the Due Process Clause. See In re Winship (1970).

We are quite sure, however, that the Sixth Amendment itself has never been held to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases. The reasonable-doubt standard developed separately from both the jury trial and the unanimous verdict. As the Court noted in the Winship case, the rule requiring proof of crime beyond a reasonable doubt did not crystallize in this country until after the Constitution was adopted. And in that case, which held such a burden of proof to be constitutionally required, the Court purported to draw no support from the Sixth Amendment.

Petitioners' argument that the Sixth Amendment requires jury unanimity in order to give effect to the reasonable-doubt standard thus founders on the fact that the Sixth Amendment does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt at all. 


Petitioners also cite quite accurately a long line of decisions of this Court upholding the principle that the Fourteenth Amendment requires jury panels to reflect a cross section of the community.  They then contend that unanimity is a necessary precondition for effective application of the cross-section requirement, because a rule permitting less than unanimous verdicts will make it possible for convictions to occur without the acquiescence of minority elements within the community.

There are two flaws in this argument. One is petitioners' assumption that every distinct voice in the community has a right to be represented on every jury and a right to prevent conviction of a defendant in any case. All that the Constitution forbids, however, is systematic exclusion of identifiable segments of the community from jury panels and from the juries ultimately drawn from those panels; a defendant may not, for example, challenge the makeup of a jury merely because no members of his race are on the jury, but must prove that his race has been systematically excluded.  No group, in short, has the right to block convictions; it has only the right to participate in the overall legal processes by which criminal guilt and innocence are determined.

We also cannot accept petitioner's second assumption - that minority groups, even when they are represented on a jury, will not adequately represent the viewpoint of those groups simply because they may be outvoted in the final result. They will be present during all deliberations, and their views will be heard. We cannot assume that the majority of the jury will refuse to weigh the evidence and reach a decision upon rational grounds, just as it must now do in order to obtain unanimous verdicts, or that a majority will deprive a man of his liberty on the basis of prejudice when a minority is presenting a reasonable argument in favor of acquittal. We simply find no proof for the notion that a majority will disregard its instructions and cast its votes for guilt or innocence based on prejudice rather than the evidence.

We accordingly affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Oregon.


In Duncan v. Louisiana, the Court squarely held that the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury in a federal criminal case is made wholly applicable to state criminal trials by the Fourteenth Amendment. Unless Duncan is to be overruled, therefore, the only relevant question here is whether the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of trial by jury embraces a guarantee that the verdict of the jury must be unanimous. The answer to that question is clearly "yes," as my Brother POWELL has cogently demonstrated in that part of his concurring opinion that reviews almost a century of Sixth Amendment adjudication. *  

Until today, it has been universally understood that a unanimous verdict is an essential element of a Sixth Amendment jury trial. I would follow these settled Sixth Amendment precedents and reverse the judgment before us.

U.S. Supreme Court

JOHNSON v. LOUISIANA, 406 U.S. 356 (1972)

406 U.S. 356


Argued March 1, 1971 Reargued January 10, 1972
Decided May 22, 1972

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Under both the Louisiana Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure, criminal cases in which the punishment is necessarily at hard labor are tried to a jury of 12, and the vote of nine jurors is sufficient to return either a guilty or not guilty verdict. The principal question in this case is whether these provisions allowing less-than-unanimous verdicts in certain cases are valid under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Appellant Johnson was arrested at his home on January 20, 1968. There was no arrest warrant, but the victim of an armed robbery had identified Johnson from photographs as having committed the crime. He was then identified at a lineup, at which he had counsel, by the victim of still another robbery. The latter crime is involved in this case. Johnson pleaded not guilty, was tried on May 14, 1968, by a 12-man jury and was convicted by a nine-to-three verdict.... 


It is our view that the fact of three dissenting votes to acquit raises no question of constitutional substance about either the integrity or the accuracy of the majority verdict of guilt. Appellant's contrary argument breaks down into two parts, each of which we shall consider separately: first, that nine individual jurors will be unable to vote conscientiously in favor of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt when three of their colleagues are arguing for acquittal, and second, that guilt cannot be said to have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt when one or more of a jury's members at the conclusion of deliberation still possess such a doubt. Neither argument is persuasive.

Numerous cases have defined a reasonable doubt as one "`based on reason which arises from the evidence or lack of evidence.'" In Winship, supra, the Court recognized this evidentiary standard as "`impress[ing] on the trier of fact the necessity of reaching a subjective state of certitude of the facts in issue.'" In considering the first branch of appellant's argument, we can find no basis for holding that the nine jurors who voted for his conviction failed to follow their instructions concerning the need for proof beyond such a doubt or that the vote of any one of the nine failed to reflect an honest belief that guilt had been so proved. Appellant, in effect, asks us to assume that, when minority jurors express sincere doubts about guilt, their fellow jurors will nevertheless ignore them and vote to convict even if deliberation has not been exhausted and minority jurors have grounds for acquittal which, if pursued, might persuade members of the majority to acquit. But the mere fact that three jurors voted to acquit does not in itself demonstrate that, had the nine jurors of the majority attended further to reason and the evidence, all or one of them would have developed a reasonable doubt about guilt. We have no grounds for believing that majority jurors, aware of their responsibility and power over the liberty of the defendant, would simply refuse to listen to arguments presented to them in favor of acquittal, terminate discussion, and render a verdict. On the contrary it is far more likely that a juror presenting reasoned argument in favor of acquittal would either have his arguments answered or would carry enough other jurors with him to prevent conviction. A majority will cease discussion and outvote a minority only after reasoned discussion has ceased to have persuasive effect or to serve any other purpose - when a minority, that is, continues to insist upon acquittal without having persuasive reasons in support of its position. At that juncture there is no basis for denigrating the vote of so large a majority of the jury or for refusing to accept their decision as being, at least in their minds, beyond a reasonable doubt.

We conclude, therefore, that, as to the nine jurors who voted to convict, the State satisfied its burden of proving guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. The remaining question under the Due Process Clause is whether the vote of three jurors for acquittal can be said to impeach the verdict of the other nine and to demonstrate that guilt was not in fact proved beyond such doubt. We hold that it cannot.

Of course, the State's proof could perhaps be regarded as more certain if it had convinced all 12 jurors instead of only nine; it would have been even more compelling if it had been required to convince and had, in fact, convinced 24 or 36 jurors. But the fact remains that nine jurors - a substantial majority of the jury - were convinced by the evidence. In our view disagreement of three jurors does not alone establish reasonable doubt, particularly when such a heavy majority of the jury, after having considered the dissenters' views, remains convinced of guilt. That rational men disagree is not in itself equivalent to a failure of proof by the State, nor does it indicate infidelity to the reasonable-doubt standard. Jury verdicts finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are regularly sustained even though the evidence was such that the jury would have been justified in having a reasonable doubt; even though the trial judge might not have reached the same conclusion as the jury,  and even though appellate judges are closely divided on the issue whether there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction.... We conclude, therefore, that verdicts rendered by nine out of 12 jurors are not automatically invalidated by the disagreement of the dissenting three....

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Louisiana is therefore affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring. *  

I join the Court's opinion and judgment in each of these cases. I add only the comment, which should be  obvious and should not need saying, that in so doing I do not imply that I regard a State's split-verdict system as a wise one. My vote means only that I cannot conclude that the system is constitutionally offensive. Were I a legislator, I would disfavor it as a matter of policy. Our task here, however, is not to pursue and strike down what happens to impress us as undesirable legislative policy.

I do not hesitate to say, either, that a system employing a 7-5 standard, rather than a 9-3 or 75% minimum, would afford me great difficulty. As MR. JUSTICE WHITE points out, "a substantial majority of the jury" are to be convinced. That is all that is before us in each of these cases.

MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring.

I concur in the judgment of the Court that convictions based on less-than-unanimous jury verdicts in these cases did not deprive criminal defendants of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. As my reasons for reaching this conclusion in the Oregon case differ from those expressed in the plurality opinion of MR. JUSTICE WHITE, I will state my views separately.

I concur in the plurality opinion in this case insofar as it concludes that a defendant in a state court may constitutionally be convicted by less than a unanimous verdict, but I am not in accord with a major premise upon which that judgment is based. Its premise is that the concept of jury trial, as applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment, must be identical in every detail to the concept required in federal courts by the Sixth Amendment. I do not think that all of the elements of jury trial within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment are necessarily embodied in or incorporated into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As Mr. Justice Fortas, concurring in Duncan v. Louisiana said:

In an unbroken line of cases reaching back into the late 1800's, the Justices of this Court have recognized, virtually without dissent, that unanimity is one of the indispensable features of federal jury trial.  In these cases, the Court has presumed that unanimous verdicts are essential in federal jury trials, not because unanimity is necessarily fundamental to the function performed by the jury, but because that result is mandated by history. The reasoning that  runs throughout this Court's Sixth Amendment precedents is that, in amending the Constitution to guarantee the right to jury trial, the framers desired to preserve the jury safeguard as it was known to them at common law. At the time the Bill of Rights was adopted, unanimity had long been established as one of the attributes of a jury conviction at common law. It therefore seems to me, in accord both with history and precedent, that the Sixth Amendment requires a unanimous jury verdict to convict in a federal criminal trial.

But it is the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Sixth, that imposes upon the States the requirement that they provide jury trials to those accused of serious crimes. This Court has said, in cases decided when the intendment of that Amendment was not as clouded by the passage of time, that due process does not require that the States apply the federal jury-trial right with all its gloss...."[W]hen providing in their constitution and legislation for the manner in which civil or criminal actions  shall be tried, it is in entire conformity with the character of the Federal Government that [the States] should have the right to decide for themselves what shall be the form and character of the procedure in such trials, . . . whether there shall be a jury of twelve or a lesser number, and whether the verdict must be unanimous or not. . . ."

I find nothing in the constitutional principle upon which Duncan is based, or in other precedents, that requires repudiation of the views expressed with respect to the size of a jury and the unanimity of its verdict. Mr. Justice Fortas, concurring in Duncan, commented on the distinction between the requirements of the Sixth Amendment and those of the Due Process Clause and suggested the appropriate framework for analysis of the issue in this case.

The question, therefore, that should be addressed in this case is whether unanimity is in fact so fundamental to the essentials of jury trial that this particular requirement of the Sixth Amendment is necessarily binding on the States under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. An affirmative answer would give unwarranted and unwise scope to the incorporation doctrine as it applies to the due process right of state criminal defendants to trial by jury.

The importance that our system attaches to trial by jury derives from the special confidence we repose in a "body of one's peers to determine guilt or innocence as a safeguard against arbitrary law enforcement." It is this safeguarding function, preferring the commonsense judgment of a jury as a bulwark "against the corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against the compliant, biased, or eccentric judge," that lies at the core of our dedication to the principles of jury determination of guilt or innocence. This is the fundamental of jury trial that brings it within the mandate of due process. It seems to me that this fundamental is adequately preserved by the jury-verdict provision of the Oregon Constitution. There is no reason to believe, on the basis of experience in Oregon or elsewhere, that a unanimous decision of 12 jurors is more likely to serve the high purpose of jury trial, or is entitled to greater respect in the community, than the same decision joined in by 10 members of a jury of 12. The standard of due process assured by the Oregon Constitution provides a sufficient guarantee that the government will not be permitted to impose its judgment on an accused without first meeting the full burden of its prosecutorial duty. 

Moreover, in holding that the Fourteenth Amendment has incorporated "jot-for-jot and case-for-case" every element of the Sixth Amendment, the Court derogates principles of federalism that are basic to our system. In the name of uniform application of high standards of due process, the Court has embarked upon a course of constitutional interpretation that deprives the States of freedom to experiment with adjudicatory processes different from the federal model. At the same time, the Court's understandable unwillingness to impose requirements that it finds unnecessarily rigid has culminated in the dilution of federal rights that were, until these decisions, never seriously questioned. The doubly undesirable consequence of this reasoning process, labeled by Mr. Justice Harlan as "constitutional schizophrenia," may well be detrimental both to the state and federal criminal justice systems. Although it is perhaps late in the day for an expression of my views, I would have been in accord with the opinions in similar cases by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and Justices Harlan, STEWART, and Fortas that, at least in defining the elements of the right to jury trial, there is no sound basis for interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment to require blind adherence by the States to all details of the federal Sixth Amendment standards..... 

Quite apart from whether Justices sitting on this Court would have deemed advisable the adoption of any particular less-than-unanimous jury provision, I think that considerations of this kind reflect a legitimate basis for experimentation and deviation from the federal blueprint. 

Since I do not view Oregon's less-than-unanimous jury verdict requirement as violative of the due process guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment, I concur in the Court's affirmance of these convictions.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concur, dissenting. *  

Appellant in the Louisiana case and petitioners in the Oregon case were convicted by juries that were less than unanimous. This procedure is authorized by both the Louisiana and Oregon Constitutions. Their claim, rejected by the majority, is that this procedure is a violation of their federal constitutional rights. With due respect to the majority, I dissent from this radical departure from American traditions.


The Constitution does not mention unanimous juries. Neither does it mention the presumption of innocence, nor does it say that guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in all criminal cases. Yet it is almost inconceivable that anyone would have questioned whether proof beyond a reasonable doubt was in fact the constitutional standard. And, indeed, when such a case finally arose we had little difficult disposing of the issue....

I had similarly assumed that there was no dispute that the Federal Constitution required a unanimous jury in all criminal cases. After all, it has long been explicit constitutional doctrine that the Seventh Amendment civil jury must be unanimous. See American Publishing Co. v. Fisher, 166 U.S. 464 , where the Court said that "unanimity was one of the peculiar and essential features of trial by jury at the common law. No authorities are needed to sustain this proposition." Like proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the issue of unanimous juries in criminal cases simply never arose. Yet in cases dealing with juries it had always been assumed that a unanimous jury was required. Today the bases of those cases are discarded and two centuries of American history are shunted aside. 

The result of today's decisions is anomalous: though unanimous jury decisions are not required in state trials, they are constitutionally required in federal prosecutions. How can that be possible when both decisions stem from the Sixth Amendment?

We held unanimously in 1948 that the Bill of Rights requires a unanimous jury verdict:

After today's decisions, a man's property may only be taken away by a unanimous jury vote, yet he can be stripped of his liberty by a lesser standard. How can that result be squared with the law of the land as expressed in the settled and traditional requirements of procedural due process?

Rule 31 (a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure states, "The verdict shall be unanimous." That Rule was made by this Court with the concurrence of Congress pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3771. After today a unanimous verdict will be required in a federal prosecution but not in a state prosecution. Yet the source of the right in each case is the Sixth Amendment. I fail  to see how with reason we can maintain those inconsistent dual positions.

There have, of course, been advocates of the view that the duties imposed on the States by reason of the Bill of Rights operating through the Fourteenth Amendment are a watered-down version of those guarantees. But we held to the contrary....

It is said, however, that the Sixth Amendment, as applied to the States by reason of the Fourteenth, does not mean what it does in federal proceedings, that it has a "due process" gloss on it, and that that gloss gives the States power to experiment with the explicit or implied guarantees in the Bill of Rights.

Do today's decisions mean that States may apply a "watered down" version of the Just Compensation Clause? Or are today's decisions limited to a paring down of civil rights protected by the Bill of Rights and up until now as fully applicable to the States as to the Federal Government?

These civil rights - whether they concern speech, searches and seizures, self-incrimination, criminal prosecutions, bail, or cruel and unusual punishments extend, of course, to everyone, but in cold reality touch mostly the lower castes in our society. I refer, of course, to the blacks, the Chicanos, the one-mule farmers, the agricultural workers, the offbeat students, the victims of the ghetto. Are we giving the States the power to experiment in diluting their civil rights? It has long been thought that the "thou shalt nots" in the Constitution and Bill of Rights protect everyone against governmental intrusion or overreaching. The idea has been obnoxious that there are some who can be relegated to second-class citizenship. But if we construe the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment to permit States to "experiment" with the basic rights of people, we open a veritable Pandora's box. For hate and prejudice are versatile forces that can degrade the constitutional scheme. 

That, however, is only one of my concerns when we make the Bill of Rights, as applied to the States, a "watered down" version of what that charter guarantees. My chief concern is one often expressed by the late Mr. Justice Black, who was alarmed at the prospect of nine men appointed for life sitting as a super-legislative body to determine whether government has gone too far. The balancing was done when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written and adopted. For this Court to determine, say, whether one person but not another is entitled to free speech is a power never granted it. But that is the ultimate reach of decisions that let the States, subject to our veto, experiment with rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

I would construe the Sixth Amendment, when applicable to the States, precisely as I would when applied to the Federal Government.


The plurality approves a procedure which diminishes the reliability of a jury. First, it eliminates the circumstances in which a minority of jurors (a) could have rationally persuaded the entire jury to acquit, or (b) while unable to persuade the majority to acquit, nonetheless could have convinced them to convict only on a lesser-included offense. Second, it permits prosecutors in Oregon and Louisiana to enjoy a conviction-acquittal ratio substantially greater than that ordinarily returned by unanimous juries.....

Today the Court approves a nine-to-three verdict. Would the Court relax the standard of reasonable doubt still further by resorting to eight-to-four verdicts, or even a majority rule? Moreover, in light of today's holdings and that of Williams v. Florida, in the future would it invalidate three-to-two or even two-to-one convictions? The vast restructuring of American law which is entailed in today's decisions is for political not for judicial action. Until the Constitution is rewritten, we have the present one to support and construe. It has served us well. We lifetime appointees, who sit here only by happenstance, are the last who should sit as a Committee of Revision on rights as basic as those involved in the present cases.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt and unanimity of criminal verdicts and the presumption of innocence are basic features of the accusatorial system. What we do today is not in that tradition but more in the tradition of the inquisition. Until amendments are adopted setting new standards, I would let no man be fined or imprisoned in derogation of what up to today was indisputably the law of the land.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, with whom MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL joins, dissenting. *  

Readers of today's opinions may be understandably puzzled why convictions by 11-1 and 10-2 jury votes are affirmed in No. 69-5046, when a majority of the Court agrees that the Sixth Amendment requires a unanimous verdict in federal criminal jury trials, and a majority also agrees that the right to jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment is to be enforced against the States according to the same standards that protect that right against federal encroachment. The reason is that while my Brother POWELL agrees that a unanimous verdict is required in federal criminal trials, he does not agree that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial is to be applied in the same way to State and Federal Governments. In that circumstance, it is arguable that the affirmance of the convictions of Apodaca, Madden, and Cooper is not inconsistent with a view that today's decision in No. 69-5046 is a holding that only a unanimous verdict will afford the accused in a state criminal prosecution the jury trial guaranteed him by the Sixth Amendment. In any event, the affirmance must not obscure that the majority of the Court remains of the view that, as in the case of every specific of the Bill of Rights that extends to the States, the Sixth Amendment's jury trial  guarantee, however it is to be construed, has identical application against both State and Federal Governments.

I can add only a few words to the opinions of my Brothers DOUGLAS, STEWART, and MARSHALL, which I have joined. Emotions may run high at criminal trials. Although we can fairly demand that jurors be neutral until they have begun to hear evidence, it would surpass our power to command that they remain unmoved by the evidence that unfolds before them. What this means is that jurors will often enter the jury deliberations with strong opinions on the merits of the case. If at that time a sufficient majority is available to reach a verdict, those jurors in the majority will have nothing but their own common sense to restrain them from returning a verdict before they have fairly considered the positions of jurors who would reach a different conclusion. Even giving all reasonable leeway to legislative judgment in such matters, I think it simply ignores reality to imagine that most jurors in these circumstances would or even could fairly weigh the arguments opposing their position.

It is in this context that we must view the constitutional requirement that all juries be drawn from an accurate cross section of the community. When verdicts must be unanimous, no member of the jury may be ignored by the others. When less than unanimity is sufficient, consideration of minority views may become nothing more than a matter of majority grace. In my opinion, the right of all groups in this Nation to participate in the criminal process means the right to have their voices heard. A unanimous verdict vindicates that right. Majority verdicts could destroy it.


The requirement that the verdict of the jury be unanimous, surely as important as these other constitutional requisites, preserves the jury's function in linking law with contemporary society. It provides the simple and effective method endorsed by centuries of experience and history to combat the injuries to the fair administration of justice that can be inflicted by community passion and prejudice.

I dissent.

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, dissenting. *  

Today the Court cuts the heart out of two of the most important and inseparable safeguards the Bill of Rights offers a criminal defendant: the right to submit his case to a jury, and the right to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Together, these safeguards occupy a fundamental place in our constitutional scheme, protecting the individual defendant from the awesome power of the State. After today, the skeleton of these safeguards remains, but the Court strips them of life and of meaning. I cannot refrain from adding my protest to that of my Brothers DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, and STEWART, whom I join.

In Apodaca v. Oregon, the question is too frighteningly simple to bear much discussion. We are asked to decide what is the nature of the "jury" that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. I would have thought that history provided the appropriate guide, and as MR. JUSTICE POWELL has demonstrated so convincingly, history compels the decision that unanimity is an essential feature of that jury. But the majority has embarked on a "functional" analysis of the jury that allows it to strip away, one by one, virtually all the characteristic features of the jury as we know it. Two years ago, over my dissent, the Court discarded as an essential feature the traditional size of the jury. Williams v. Florida (1970). Today the Court discards, at least in state trials, the traditional requirement of unanimity. It seems utterly and ominously clear that so long as the tribunal bears the label "jury," it will meet Sixth Amendment requirements as they are presently viewed by this Court. The Court seems to require only that jurors be laymen, drawn from the community without systematic exclusion of any group, who exercise commonsense judgment.

More distressing still than the Court's treatment of the right to jury trial is the cavalier treatment the Court gives to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court asserts that when a jury votes nine to three for conviction, the doubts of the three do not impeach the verdict of the nine. The argument seems to be that since, under  Williams, nine jurors are enough to convict, the three dissenters are mere surplusage. But there is all the difference in the world between three jurors who are not there, and three jurors who entertain doubts after hearing all the evidence. In the first case we can never know, and it is senseless to ask, whether the prosecutor might have persuaded additional jurors had they been present. But in the second case we know what has happened: the prosecutor has tried and failed to persuade those jurors of the defendant's guilt. In such circumstances, it does violence to language and to logic to say that the government has proved the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt....

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