Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Post Constitutional Era! Part XXXI

Amendment 6 - Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed ofthe nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. Proposed 9/25/1789 - Ratified 12/15/1791
Here is the commentary from Americapedia

This amendment echoes the language of Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, providing a jury trial for all criminal cases. Jury trials must be speedy and open to the public, including the press, though not necessarily to television cameras. Defendants have the right to be told what they are charged with, and to a lawyer to assist them in their defense. Once the trial begins, it must take place in the area where the alleged crime was committed. Defendants have the right to cross-examine people who testify against them, and to subpoena witnesses to testify on their behalf. These protections are part of the due process rights protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Landmark Supreme Court cases involving the right to counsel include Gideon v. Wainwright (1963).

Defendants have the right to a quick trial by a jury of people who are not involved with the case, and who are not biased against them. Further, the trial must take place in the area where the alleged crime was committed. These protections are part of due process rights protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Jury trials have their roots in ancient republics. The Founders believed that jury trials were a check on tyrannical government, and a foundation of justice. They were outraged when the British Crown did not provide them during the colonial era. The Declaration of Independence charges the King with depriving the colonists of their right to a trial by jury, and of taking defendants away to England to be tried by a judge in admiralty courts: “For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury; for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses…”

The Founders also believed that both serving on a jury and testifying in court were essential responsibilities of citizenship. Thomas Jefferson believed that serving on a jury was more important than voting.

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