Politics/Law/Government

The New Constitution: Amendment XV – fair and speedy trials

The New Constitution

Amendment XV

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of professional, trained adjudicators sanctioned by 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; defendants shall have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in their favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for their defense.

Rationale

There is too much truth in the old joke about justice depending on 12 people who are too stupid to get out of jury duty. Time and time again, it seems, we watch as our legal system is subverted by cynical attorneys and juries comprised of people selected because they’re less educated or easily manipulated.

The New Constitution proposes a system where cases are decided by juries drawn from a pool of trained, independent professionals familiar with the law and the nuances of our justice system. Society and defendants alike deserve fair trials resolved upon the evidence.

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Index: The New Constitution Series

12 replies »

  1. “…impartial jury of professional, trained adjudicators sanctioned by the state and district…”

    Fascinating concept, I’m going to have to think about it a bit. First reaction is similar to that I had about the right to bear arms. What are the unintended consequences? If we create a class of adjudicators, what are the dynamics for admission and continuance in that group. LIving in a capitalist society, I believe money becomes involved at some point (Even I often refer to this as a cynical view but that is not entirely true — there are always disproportionate influences on decision making — in a capitalist environment it is just easier to index those influences in terms of dollars). Where does the money come from? Who does it (the money) recruit? Who does it target for elimination? (spooky music) In which direction does the invisible hand guide us?

    Not necessarily a reason not to do it; just never considered it before. Curious.

    BTW — I would like to get on a jury. Won’t have anything to do with me so far but I get another chance tomorrow.

  2. Thank goodness Sam, finally one I don’t like. Defendants already face a bureaucracy of police, prosecutors, judges, and possibly public defenders. All employees of the state. Now we would add a pool of more state employees to arrive at final judgement? The Kafkaesque possibilities chill me to the bone.

    How long would it take the local pool of pro jurors to get cozy with the court? How well would they judge repeat offenders? How long until sentencing defendants to jail or worse became ho hum? Taking another citizen’s liberty is serious business, and if I was sitting in the hot box I would surely trust my neighbors to decide my fate more than a group of bureaucrats.

    I agree, jury trials are a crap shoot but it’s a last chance for a citizen, especially an innocent citizen to tell their story to a group of non-professionals with some hope of a reasonable verdict. There is also jury nullification which although rare is a very important part of our system as a way to point out bad laws. I highly doubt a pro jury would ever go against the law, no matter how evil or poorly applied.

    • You rather quickly put your finger on the issue that most concerns me. You don’t want the jury professionals to begin identifying with the prosecutors (or the defense attorneys, for that matter) and that’s a dynamic/risk to be aware of.

      The body would of necessity be state employees, but then again, so are public defenders. So that’s not by any stretch an automatically bad thing. They’d have to be independent and you’d need strong professional standards and ethical codes. I’m thinking in terms of the journalism profession through the middle 20th century golden age, for example. That crowd took the mission and their integrity very seriously, and if you applied on top of that “officer of the court” status you might well be getting somewhere.

      Notice how I made it this far without once saying “Zimmerman” or “OJ” or “William Kennedy Smith” or “Darryl Hunt” or “Sam Sheppard”?

  3. Remember that public service commitment you talked about a couple of amendments ago? I think that a constantly rotating crew of jurors, young and perhaps not as tainted by politics as older jurors – put through a 2-3 MONTH training experience (not unlike, in length, boot camp) and then involved in other public service (on, perhaps, the civic rather than military side, though I am not opposed to those serving in the military – however, logistically that might become problematic at times). There’s your constantly changing, ever vigilant, trained, engaged in public service population.

    How such a group – young, well trained, critical – facing a bunch of lawyers might change the process would be interesting – and good for the judicial system.

    • Initially I was going to say no way to this one but if applied with Jim’s suggestion and with a limited term of say a maximum of 18 months as an active juror once they complete their training then we take out the specter of cronyism and make it into a workable model.

      • Interesting ideas here, but you couldn’t realistically stock this pool with mandatory service folks (not exclusively, anyway). I have no objection to younger people being on juries, but I have HUGE problems with them representing too large a percentage. You need age and experience aplenty for this process.

  4. Jury by lot of the public.
    No exceptions other than imminent death.
    No challenges.

    Can’t think of a more horrifying idea than state paid professional jurors.

      • The voir dire process is intended to allow both sides _some_ right of refusal of prospective jurors. So, with a paid defense attorney anyway, a defendant can have reasonable expectation of a neutral if not slightly sympathetic jury. If the jury is stupid, they were selected to be stupid.

        There’s the problem with public defenders, although many are bright and honest and capable, their case loads preclude focusing their attention on a single client. Rich defendants will almost always come out ahead of destitute ones, it’s the way the system is built.

        I like Jim and Rho’s ideas by the way, although I agree juries built entirely of 18-20 year olds is probably not a good idea. Finding gainful national purpose for 8-10 million young Americans would be a daunting challenge but done thoughtfully it could be an amazing benefit to the country and valuable internship for them as well.

        • If we were to have professional jurors I strongly think they need to have a VERY limited shelf life. A 2-3 month training period as Jim proposed then an 18 month term of service regardless of age (the only exception being if they are sitting on a trial that takes them past their end of term). Thereafter they should be ineligible to sit on a jury for at least 20 years, or some other similar limitations to make sure the “professional jurors don’t become rubber stamps for either the prosecution or the defense.

  5. That was supposed to be “professional jurors”

    One more thought…Just because there are professional jurors does not mean we do away with the voir dire process.