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Burch v. Louisiana
United States Supreme Court
441 U.S. 130, 99 S.Ct. 1623, 60 L.Ed.2d 96 (1979)
Louisiana law provided that nonpetty criminal offenses punishable by more than six months of incarceration required a trial by a six-member jury, with five votes needed for a conviction. Burch (defendant), an individual, and Wrestle, Inc. (Wrestle) (defendant), a corporation, were convicted of charges brought by the State of Louisiana (plaintiff) after a jury trial for showing two obscene motion pictures. Burch’s conviction was by a 5-1 vote, while Wrestle’s verdict was unanimous. Burch was sentenced to two consecutive seven-month jail terms, which were suspended, and was fined $1,000. Wrestle was fined $600 on each count. The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, arguing that their convictions by a nonunanimous six-member jury violated the jury-trial rights guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The supreme court upheld the convictions, opining that a 5-1 verdict, or 83-percent agreement, was a higher percentage than then the 75-percent requirement previously approved in Johnson v. Louisiana, 406 U.S. 356 (1972), where nine out of 12 votes were needed for a conviction. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)
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