Freedom/Privacy

American vs. unAmerican values, according to the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution

Mandatory arbitration. Under-resourced public defender’s offices. Secret evidence and secret trials. All are unAmerican and violate the Sixth Amendment.

The Bill of Rights

For other articles on unAmerican values, click here

Without the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America, the United States of America would not exist. As such, the values laid out in these two documents are, by definition, American values. And any values held in opposition to the values in these documents are, again by definition, unAmerican.

The Sixth Amendment

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 defence.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial for any and all criminal prosecutions. Refusing to provide the state and federal courts with enough money and personnel to provide a speedy trial is unAmerican. It’s unAmerican to incarcerate someone pending a trial that continues being delayed due to legal maneuverings by either side. And the mandatory arbritration terms in most contracts these days are also unAmerican when they attempt to restrict the rights of victims against corporate criminals.

A trial by jury is about as American as it gets, but it becomes unAmerican when the members of the jury are racist against the defendant. It becomes unAmerican when a member is determined to practice “jury nullification.” It becomes unAmerican when the justice system is plagued by bias against defendants. And there are cases where the notoriety of a crime is such that it’s not possible for a defendant to get a fair jury trial in the district where the crime was committed. In this case, it’s a difficult balance for a judge to strike between the American values of having the trial locally vs. the rights of the defendant (such as the presumption of innocence).

Determining the place where a crime has occurred is easy for certain types of crimes, but in our modern, Internet-connected world, certain crimes can be said to have occurred in multiple locations at once. For example, libel can be said to have occurred in any location where someone read the libelous statement(s). Courts have generally ruled in cases like this that the district where the crime occurred is the location where the crime was first committed (written down in the case of libel), rather than subsequent districts. However, this is not true of every type of crime, and that has opened up the courts to “forum shopping,” where unethical lawyers hunt for the place with the best laws and most friendly judges in which to try the case. Forum shopping is most common in civil law (which does not have the same Constitutional protections as criminal law), but it can happen in criminal law as well. Forum shopping is unAmerican.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right of the accused to be confronted by witnesses against him, yet this guarantee has been ignored in national security cases where the witnesses are protected intelligence sources. This practice, however well- or ill-intentioned, is unAmerican. Similarly, if witnesses are not available to be cross-examined, that too is unAmerican, as is refusing to permit witnesses in the accused’s favor access to the court.

Finally, the Sixth Amendment guarantees that the accused has the right to “the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” Assistance has been determined to be not just a lawyer, but a competent lawyer. Forcing defendants to accept lawyers who are biased against them, who are so strapped for money and time that they can’t defend their clients adequately, or who lack enough education to qualify as competent are all unAmerican. The fact that the wealthy can afford such high-powered legal teams that they can essentially buy themselves out of jail by forcing settlements on an overburdened justice system is also unAmerican.

 

2 replies »

  1. Spectacular post. I wish it would be posted in every news outlet, every day for a year. People need to understand how wrong our justice system is. I’ve been asking these questions for years and no one could answer. And I worked for a lot of lawyers.

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