Burch v. Louisiana

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Burch v. Louisiana
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 22, 1979
Decided April 17, 1979
Full case name Burch v. Louisiana
Citations 441 U.S. 130 (more)
99 S. Ct. 1623, 60 L. Ed. 2d 96
Prior history Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Louisiana
A conviction by a nonunanimous six-person jury in a state criminal trial for a nonpetty offense violates the right of an accused to trial by jury guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan, Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Burger, White, Blackmun, Powell, Stevens
Concurrence Brennan, joined by Stewart, Marshall
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amends. VI XIV

Burch v. Louisiana, 441 U.S. 130 (1979), was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court that invalidated a Louisiana statute allowing a conviction upon a nonunanimous verdict from a jury of six for a petty offense. The statute allowed for conviction if only five jurors agreed, and this was held to be a violation of the Sixth Amendment.[1]


Burch was found guilty of showing obscene films by a nonunanimous six-member jury in the state of Louisiana. The court imposed a suspended prison sentence of two consecutive seven- month terms and fined him $1,000.

Question Before the Court[edit]

Does a conviction by a nonunanimous six-member jury in a state criminal trial for a nonpetty offense violate Burch's Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury as applied to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision of the Court[edit]

Justice Rehnquist cited Ballew v. Georgia 435 U.S. 223 (1978) noting that only two other states in the country allowed for a non unanimous decision from a non-six person jury in a non-petty offense. This "near uniform judgment of the Nation" gave the Court a "useful guide" in determining constitutionally allowable in jury practices[2][3]


  1. ^ Varat, J. D.; et al. (2009). Constitutional Law Cases and Materials (Concise Thirteenth ed.). New York: Foundation Press. p. 356. ISBN 9781599414515. 
  2. ^ "Burch v. Louisiana 441 U.S. 130 (1979)". The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "Burch v. Louisiana - 441 U.S. 130 (1979)". Justia: The United States Supreme Court Center. Retrieved 8 October 2013.