The Bill of Rights is a part of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, approved on December 15, 1791, is a document which establishes the rights of an individual and sets boundaries for the government’s control. With inspiration from the English Bill of Rights and Magna Carta, and the colonial mindset, equality for all, James Madison sponsored a series of twelve amendments which would protect individuals’ rights.
(Britannica School) Madison proposed seventeen amendments to the House of Representatives, of which the House approved all, but was then cut down to twelve by the Senate. For a final decision, in August 1789, all states except Virginia approved 10 of the 12 amendments. Finally, on December 15, 1791, Virginia approved the same ten amendments and the Bill of Rights was an official document. (“Bill of Rights”)Many of the rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights deal with the criminal court procedure (ie. the fifth and seventh amendment) (Britannica School). With the idea of defending one’s accusation for a crime, the Founding Fathers believed the criminal court procedure needed to be installed and refined. Henceforth, the creation of the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
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 defense” (US Const. amendment VI). The seven rights mentioned in the Sixth Amendment are: the right to a speedy trial, the right to a public trial, the right to be judged by an impartial jury, the right to be notified of the circumstances of the alleged crime, the right to confront witnesses who will testify against you, the right to find witnesses who will speak in favor of you and the right to have a lawyer who will defend you. At the time, if the Court failed to begin a trial in a timely manner it was required to dismiss the prosecution entirely (Bibas and Fisher). The “Speedy Trial Clause” helped prevent incarceration for long periods of time before a defendant’s guilt has been determined. This clause was also used to reduce the possibility that a long delay would hold out until something could impair the accused’s chances for a fair trial.
Nowadays, the court takes the term “speedy” more leniently, to the point where a couple years can pass and the prosecution may still remain active (Bibas and Fisher). The “public” aspect of a trial was more limited because the trials could be closed to the public for legitimate reasons (national security, public safety, or the victim’s privacy interests). “Public Trial Clause” helped witnesses come forward because they could hear of the public proceedings.
It also tends to pressure people into telling the truth. Public trials may also increase the public’s knowledge of the judicial and legal system. If they like the system and criminal court procedure they will be more supportive of the government. The jury is made up of twelve ordinary citizens of the state. Each individual has lots of power.
They are able to sentence people to death for crimes, even if they are not committed by the defendant. The jurors often knew the defendant and witnesses. This made it hard for the jury to be impartial which is a required by the Sixth Amendment. In order to make it a fair trial, the jury has to understand what charges subjected the defendant to the death penalty. Apart of their job is to debate whether a defendant is guilty or deserves mercy. The “Right to Trial by Jury” is protection from corrupt judges, who might sentence the accused unfairly.
The right to be notified of the circumstances of the alleged crime you are charged for is called the “Arraignment Clause”. This clause requires the accused to be informed of all details of the alleged crime. Including: dates, times, what allegedly happened and a reference to the law that was allegedly violated. This clause provides security to the people and assures that crimes have actually been committed before a conviction is made. The fifth right mentioned in the Sixth Amendment is the “Confrontation Clause”, which is the right to confront witnesses who will testify against you.
Because witness statements are “testimonial”, the statements are made to establish facts for the alleged criminal prosecution. This guarantees the defendant’s right to be informed of details on his alleged criminal actions. The sixth right mentions that the chosen amendment allows you to call witnesses on your behalf. If the witness does not wish to attend the trial, the court will subpoena the witness, forcing them to participate. This requirement is necessary to protect the accused against unfair or unjust accusations during trial. To guarantee a fair trial the Sixth Amendment states that you can call upon a lawyer to defend you.
If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court must provide one at the public’s expense. This guarantees the accused’s protection during trial.During the time of the Constitution, English courts were supervised by the King.
This meaning that the decision of the how the defendant was tried, the place and the time of the trial was decided by the King. The juries were never impartial due to the King’s involvement with the courts. As an improvement to the customs in England, the Founding Fathers used the Sixth Amendment to order an impartial jury during trials to assure that the abuse of the English court did not occur in America. Adding on to an impartial trial, the Founding Some local governments started to set up public defender offices for free lawyers to represent defendants in serious crime accusations for people who could not afford one. The process of criminal courts became controlled, and the local governments became more involved with the judicial court system.A case which enforces the Sixth Amendment is the Morgan v. Illinois case. The Morgan v.
Illinois case went to court on January 21, 1992, and decided on June 15, 1992. This is a trial about a capital offense (murder) in Illinois, which was conducted in two phases. The state laws in Illinois stated that the jury picked to determine the accused’s guilt or innocence also determined the prison sentence for the defendant. The performance of voir dire involved questioning jurors during the selection process to determine their impartiality. Before Derrick Morgan’s murder trial, he requested to know if the jury’s automatic decision would be death penalty upon conviction.
Morgan’s request was denied by the court, and he was convicted and sentenced to death. The impartial jury requirement of the Sixth Amendment states that the criminally accused have the right to an impartial jury. The question of whether or not the defendant would automatically be convicted, in terms of the death sentence, could determine the impartiality of the jurors. If a juror would automatically vote for the death penalty in criminal sentencing, they would be barred from participating.
A well-performed voir dire is necessary to determine the correct selection of the jurors. A voir dire is an examination performed on a jury or witness by a judge. This process is used because the jury makes an important decision which determines the defendant’s guilt and whether the death penalty should be imposed. When the court conducted the voir dire to select the jury for the Morgan vs Illinois case, the court stated that they had asked a substantial amount of questions. Most jurors were asked whether they could follow “instructions on the law” and would be fair and impartial. The State Supreme Court affirmed that the court was not required to include in voir dire a “life qualifying” question, even if it was requested by the defendant.The court’s refusal to question potential jurors, if they would automatically impose the death penalty upon the defendant, is inconsistent with the Sixth Amendment’s requirement to an impartial jury. Based on the impartiality requirement the defendant may challenge any prospective juror who will automatically vote for their death penalty.
When performing voir dire the trial court must, at the defendant’s request, question the prospective jurors’ views on capital punishment (death penalty). This guarantees the defendant’s right to an impartial jury. Works Cited Bibas, Stephanos, and Jeffrey L. Fisher. “The Sixth Amendment.” Interactive Constitution, edited by College Board et al., National Constitution Center, constitutioncenter.
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Accessed 13 Jan. 2018. Bodenhamer, David J., and James W. Ely, Jr., editors. The Bill of Rights in Modern America: Revised and Expanded.
2nd ed., Indiana UP, 2008.Britannica School. “Bill of Rights.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 8 June 2012,school.eb.
com/levels/high/article/Bill-of-Rights/63683. Accessed 13 Jan. 2018. Illinois, Supreme Court. Morgan v. Illinois. 15 June 1992. Justia, supreme.
justia.com/cases/federal/us/504/719/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2017. 504 US.Morgan v.
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org/cases/1991/91-5118US Constitution. Amendment VI. Amended 1791. Bill of Rights Institute, www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/.