Bill To Expand Size Of Florida Juries Edges Forward

Feb 4, 2014

Credit Bentley Smith

Florida is one of just three states in the country that doesn’t require 12-person juries for a trial that could leave someone spending the rest of their life in prison. But a bill that would change that passed its first committee Tuesday.

After all six jurors in George Zimmerman’s trial concerning the death of Trayvon Martin turned out to be women, only one of them a minority, some said it was time for a change in the state’s jury rules.  Miami public defender Carlos Martinez says requiring 12 jurors rather than just six could help.

“It is more likely to reflect the cross section of the community if you have twelve than is you have six. It is also more difficult, because you have twelve individuals thinking and discussing the verdict, it is more difficult to have a miscarriage of justice,” Martinez said.

Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association general counsel Buddy Jacobs, though, says his group would oppose the change.

“We don’t see the need to make the change. We’ve seen no outcry that there’s been a problem,” Jacobs said.

Several lawmakers raised concerns about what the additional cost might be to empanel larger juries and questioned whether the change would really impact outcomes. The bill passed with a 4-to-3 vote.