Thank you for returning to Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. It was so uplifting to see Americans participating in events like the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the 246th birthday of the Marines, and Veteran’s Day. If you were wondering what is happening in America, these commemorative events tell us. They remain highly popular because they represent who we are as a country. On the other hand, I just shake my head at Americans judging prominent court cases in the court of public opinion with no regard for the law. Since the Constitution is not taught as a matter of routine education, let’s discover the Sixth Amendment and the rights of a criminal defendant. I hope you find the articles in today’s newsletter educational and beneficial. Let’s begin.
So many court cases, so many guessing games, so many non-judges judging cases in the court of public opinion. Who to believe? The best way to approach this subject is to see what the U.S. Constitution says. What if you were the criminal defendant in these cases? Let’s look at it from the angle of your rights if you were in these situations.
I recently taught the Sixth Amendment by showing the student exactly what it says. I am an educator, not a lawyer, so my explanation and intent are to acquaint the student with fundamental rights, should they be a criminal defendant. Let’s review:
“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 of the 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 defense.” – The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What is a speedy trial? All circumstances must be considered. It is not confining the accused indefinitely without charges. It is not trying and potentially convicting a person in haste. The defense and prosecution must have reasonable time to build their case.
What is a public trial? The public may attend the proceedings. Media is invited as well. However, national security, public safety, or privacy interests are some of the reasons a trial may be closed to the public.
What is an impartial jury? Jurors in a criminal trial are your peers. They are everyday Americans who have been summoned by the court to appear for jury duty. A jury of ordinary Americans is meant to curb government abuse by judges and prosecutors. Both the Defense and the Prosecution question jurors to determine impartiality. In a criminal case, all twelve jurors must agree on the verdict.
What does a jury of State and district mean? Article III, sec. 2 states, “…Trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed…”
What is Habeas Corpus? If you are charged in a criminal case, you must be informed of the charges against you. (Read that again. It is especially relevant for today).
What does it mean to confront the witnesses against you? You have the right to confront and cross-examine your accusers. (Again, relevant in current cases in the news).
What is “having a compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in [your] favor”?
Witnesses can be forced to testify in your defense. This is called a “subpoena ” (You cannot ignore a subpoena. You must go to court to testify under oath). You also can testify in your own defense.
What does it mean to be entitled to the assistance of counsel for your defense? You have the right to have a qualified attorney (I would argue, an impartial attorney, not one who tells you immediately that you belong in jail), and the State will pay for the attorney if you can’t afford one.
One other thing, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Otherwise, you are acquitted. Keywords: “beyond” and “reasonable doubt.” This does not mean “no doubt.”
Today, everyone has an opinion in the court of public opinion. Money is made by separating Americans according to emotion. That is why I am presenting to you the law. We the People run the country, but it is according to the LAW, not our feelings.
This article is meant to give you enough information to understand the many court cases happening or pending today. I hope it has been helpful.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸
If you know of someone who might benefit from the information in this newsletter, please pass it on. Thank you!