State Lawmaker Pushes for 12-Member Juries in Felony Cases

By: Cameron Taylor Email
By: Cameron Taylor Email

Florida requires twelve jurors and two alternates to hear a first degree murder case. The state only requires a minimum of six jurors and two alternates for all other felony charges, like the second degree murder charge in the George Zimmerman trial.

Nearly a week after George Zimmerman's acquittal by six jurors, one state lawmaker is proposing Florida increase the number of jury members to twelve in felony cases.

State Representative Randolph Bracy says six member juries don't accurately represent the population, but some local attorneys aren't so sure about his proposal.

"It used to be a little bit more restrictive. You used to have to be a taxpayer. Now you only have to have a Florida driver's license. Juries in Florida have never been more diverse," said Zachary Taylor, an attorney of Waylon and Thompson.

Diversity isn't the only issue with increasing the size of trial juries.

"Jury selection would take a whole lot longer. Second of all, you would have a lot more opportunity to have juries that basically had that one hold out vote and then you basically have a mistrial. You have to come back and try it again," said Glenn Hess, State Attorney of the 14th Judicial Circuit

The Clerk of Courts also pointed out it will cost taxpayers more money to enlarge juries.

They currently pay jurors $15 a day. That totals to $120. If the proposed legislation goes through, that total would be $210 a day with twelve jurors and two alternates.

That's if the juror's employer doesn't pay for their jury service.

Then there's the issue of summoning a jury pool. Currently the clerk's office selects more than 200 people to fill a six member jury.

That number would increase to more than 300 people if twelve jurors become the standard.

Florida is one of a handful of states that allows six member juries to decide felony case. Most states require twelve jurors.


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