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The Fundamentals Of The Sixth Amendment
America is known as the land of the free, and the land of opportunity. This is true for all Americans even for certain individuals who are accused of a crime. The bill of rights under the sixth amendment guarantees that even the accused gets a fair trial. It ensures that every person receives specific rights. The sixth amendment is in place to protect the innocent and lets the person being accused receive ample protection. It is what makes the land of the free special; it speaks volume of its content. It lets even the accused have a chance from behind bars to fight his/her way out of jail. The founding fathers had the intention that the sixth amendment shall be the voice of the innocent person behind bars.
The founding fathers of the constitution had the best intention for the new country. They put together the constitution with the idea that the principles would in fact withhold the test of time. Not far after introducing the constitution, in fear of it being rejected by the people, the founding fathers decided to also establish the bill of rights for the people. These amendments would guarantee the rights of individuals, even individuals that are accused of committing a crime. According to (Hall, Finkelman, Ely, 2005) the sixth amendment states;
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(p.685)
These rights can be accurately organized into seven different rights for the person being accused. This favors the defendant because it allows many advantages that without them the chances of the defendant receiving a fair and proper trial would be slim. Let us analyze these seven specific rights of the sixth amendment.
The right to a speedy trial is the first of the seven rights. Having a speedy trial is essential while you are being under investigation for the simple fact that one would not want to spend an infinite amount of time behind bars without being heard. For example if one is being held behind bars for five years before their case is even brought to trial and defendant happened to be innocent, there is no way the court can grant the person those five years that the person had lost. Another reason for a speedy trial would be for the obvious reason that it is expensive to house an individual behind bars while he waits for trial. Finally the most important reason would be that as time goes by the accused memory may become cloudy and would most likely damage his defense. The right to a speedy trial was proposed by James Madison while trying to defend the constitution to the anti-Federalist. Madison proposed twenty amendments in what is known as the bill of rights on June 8, 1789 (Revolutionary War and Beyond, 2008-2010). Madison gave a speech to the very first congress ever. The right to a speedy trial was actually adopted by United States constitution from the British government. The British government passed the English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, due to the fact that there was an outrage from the people. They were disputing that people were being incarcerated for a very lengthy amount of time (Revolutionary War and Beyond, 2008-2010). The founding fathers adopted this idea and implemented it into the bill of rights.
The right to a public trial is the second of the seven rights. The first question that comes into mind would be that perhaps one does not want to share their information to the public. One would even go as far as to say it is embarrassing to have ones business out in the public. But with further analysis of this clause one may see the advantages. For instance if this clause was not in the amendment certain investigators might take advantage and surly one would want to avoid something known as star chamber, were they have the trial behind locked doors and most likely receive an unfair trial. In a star chamber the punishment would be severe and even call for death to the person being accused (Snell, 2010). The right to a public trial also allows the public to witness what is happening behind the scenes of the judicial system, which reinforces the confidence of the public. (Revolutionary War and Beyond, 2008-2010)
This leads us to the right of having a jury present while having the trial. This is probably the most apparent reason why this would have been in the bill of rights. Let us say that an individual receives an unfair judge that for some reason or another does not particularly like the defendant. This places a lot of power in the judge’s hands. A judge may sentence someone on the mere fact that they dislike someone. A well explained case that led up to reinforcement of this clause would be the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D. specifically article 39(Revolutionary War and Beyond, 2008-2010) which was the first restrain on a monarchs power.
The Arraignment Clause requires that you be well informed of the nature for what you are being accused of. The judiciary system is required to inform you of what you are being accused of. The founding fathers must have known that this was critical in having someone receive a fair trial. The founding fathers knew that in England it was common that people were charged and sentenced without hearing the cause (Revolutionary War and Beyond, 2008-2010). The defendant could be accused of a false crime and not know why they are sentence to prison.
The Confrontation Clause, it enables the defendant to confront the person that is accusing them face to face. This clause guarantees that one may cross-examine the witness. This clause gives the case a more in depth look because the jury may see both sides of the case. The jury is able hear both sides enabling the jury to give a more accurate verdict. A case that exemplifies this is the case of Smith vs. Illinois, 1968; in this case the defendant said that his sixth amendment Confrontation clause had been violated. This is a case in which the state of Illinois wanted to initiate evidence against Smith from an undercover police informant. Smith argued that he was entitled to confront the witness but the police department for identity purpose did not want to reveal his identity. Smith suggested that the case be thrown out because he did receive a fair cross-examination. The court agreed with Smith and threw the case out. A good example of what occurs when a person’s rights is violated.
Compulsory Process Clause is the sixth right of the sixth amendment. This clause enables the defendant to bring in a witness in their favor; it also allows the court to subpoena the witness if they refuse to participate (Revolutionary War and Beyond, 2008-2010). The founding fathers were familiar with English and colonial laws that forbid people from calling witnesses in cases of treason or felony. Having the ability to have a witness act in part of defendant is critical and could lead to the victory of the case depending how reliable is the witness. The overall reason for this clause was to ensure the protecting of the people from the government and its overwhelming influences on the judiciary system.
Finally the last and certainly not the least important of these rights is the right to counsel clause. This ensures that you have a lawyer advising you through the trial. The defendant enjoys the right to an attorney to act in part of his defense. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one may be appointed to represent the party. Apparently this was not the full intention of the founding fathers. The founding fathers enable one to hire an attorney to represent them in a trial. It was not until Powell vs. Alabama, in 1932, that the courts provided an appointed lawyer to act as representative of the defendant provide that he/she could not afford one.
After reviewing all the rights in the sixth amendment one is able to recognize why the founding fathers made these laws applicable to the people of the United States. These laws are there to protect the innocent from being wrongfully accused of a crime that they did not commit. The sixth amendment enables one individual to defend himself from even the mighty power of the government. It evens out the playing field and lets one play a fair game until the verdict is in. Although sometimes there will be certain cases were a defendant is guilty and tries to use these rights in their defense, perhaps none other more famous than Miranda vs. Arizona, 1966. It is a case in which Ernesto Miranda was accused of raping a 18 year old woman. What makes this case special was that Ernesto was told to write out a statement explaining all the crimes he had committed including a previous robbery. Ernesto wrote the statement acknowledging that he had in fact committed the wrongful acts. This was later brought into the trial and Ernesto’s attorney argued that Ernesto was not aware of any self incriminating laws, because he had written the statement without proper counsel (Capras.com, 2005). The case eventually proceeded all the way to Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that it was unlawful for anyone to write out a statement that would incriminate themselves without first being told or read their rights, hence why we now if arrested we are read our Miranda’s rights. Ernesto served eleven years and was paroled but was later killed a few years later in a bar fight. The Miranda vs. Arizona case although the defendant was clearly guilty the founding fathers sixth amendment provided a strong foundation in this case, it showed how the government cannot be quick to throw the book at you. The Miranda rights are just another strong component to the sixth amendment that the ingenious founding fathers had developed. The Miranda rights along with sixth amendment will act as a vehicle for the innocent to be released if accused of a crime.