Xavier Cortada, “Williams V. Florida,” acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 36″, 2004

Chapter 5

Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970)

Artist's Statement

In art there’s this color wheel. It starts with three primary colors: red, yellow, blue. Then, between them, you see the secondary colors; those that are formed by the blending of primary colors: Orange (when one mixes yellow and red). Green (when one mixes blue and yellow). Purple (when one blends red and blue). Each one is as strong a color. Some become complementary to each other. Side by side, green and red, stand out more. The same with other colors on the opposite side of the color wheel: yellow and purple, blue and orange.

In physics, there’s a light spectrum. We see it when prisms break up light into its component colors, much like a rainbow. One needs to have all the colors come together to make true light.

As a lawyer, I understand the importance of juries to our judicial system and to our democracy. Nowhere can citizens have a more direct, immediate, and substantial role in their government. Jurors are the arbiters of facts. They determine truth.

The question becomes, how many jurors does it take to find the truth. To see the light? Common law had that number at 12. Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970), challenged that number’s reduction to six in criminal cases. The Supreme Court ruled that six jurors was a diverse enough pool of citizens to search for the truth.

I see truth as light. I see light as color. I wanted to represent the jurors in six different colors, each bringing their own perspectives and experiences into the jury room. The impact of each other’s deliberations can be seen on the (complementary) colors of their clothes. They’ll go back and forth, over and over, listening and speaking, until they find the truth.

Only when all six come together, do we really begin to see the light. The Spectrum of Truth.

– Xavier Cortada