Has The Research Changed Regarding The Importance Of Jury Size?

January 26, 2023

In the most recent edition of Voir Dire, Erica Boyce, a researcher for The National Center for State Courts reviewed the empirical research conducted on jury size during the past 20 years. This research was prompted by the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) in the wake of the pandemic’s effects on empaneling juries. 

Boyce concludes that recent research tended to follow previous findings, however, the research highlights many more complexities involved. Do smaller juries allow for more unanimous verdicts? Are they representative of their communities? Are they more cost-effective? These are some of the questions Boyce poses through her findings. 


By way of background, in Williams v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court concluded that the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury does not require a jury to consist of 12 individuals. Rather, the Court left this decision in the hands of federal and state courts to decide how many jurors are necessary to effectively serve justice. 

Currently, the 12-person jury is used by 33 states for civil jury trials, 34 for misdemeanor trials, and 45 for non-capital felony trials. Other states use six, seven, or eight-member juries for those trials.


  • Some research says reducing jury sizes saves money for courts and for litigants with a lawyer, but other research says the savings are minimal.
  • Jury service forces jurors to lose wages and time from family, so smaller juries mean fewer people must make those sacrifices. On the flip side, other research says people who serve on juries develop a greater appreciation for the justice system, so smaller juries mean fewer people will experience that appreciation. 
  • It is easier to reach consensus in smaller juries, but they are less likely to include diverse viewpoints and larger, 12-person juries often possess a better collective memory when they adjourn to review testimony and evidence. 
  • Smaller juries are often less diverse which reduces the likelihood that the full range of community perspectives are considered during jury deliberations.
  • Predictive model research using mock trials lacks realism in that the subjects know that their decisions really have no meaning, but these deductive models offer a more nuanced approach to understanding the complexity of influencers and impacts of reduced-sized jury panels that cannot be easily measured. 

Boyce concludes that “since pros and cons are associated with 12-person juries as well as smaller ones… I would encourage states to weigh all of the research before they make decisions about what size jury works for them.” 


For a full analysis, see Erica Boyce’s report here: Time to Reflect: Has the research changed regarding the importance of jury size?

Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other issues facing your company