By Tyler Bauer
This is the sixth of many blog posts that will be taking a deeper look at the various amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as proposed amendments to the United States Constitution which failed. The text of each amendment is taken from constitutionus.com and information on failed amendments is taken from www.lexisnexus.com.
The Sixth Amendment
What it Says
“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.”
What it Means
In all prosecutions, the alleged criminal is entitled to a speedy and public trial. The jury in this trial must be impartial and come from the jurisdiction in which the crime was allegedly committed. The accused has the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him or her. Furthermore, the accused has the right to confront the witnesses against him or her, and can require the witness(es) to defend him or her in court. Lastly, the accused has a right to a lawyer to defend him or her.
Why it Matters
The Sixth Amendment matters because it gives the judicial system – specifically courtroom proceedings – legitimacy. This amendment codifies the rights we often take for granted in courtroom settings. For example, could you imagine a justice system in which your trial was neither speedy nor public (there’s a case to be made that today’s trials aren’t speedy, but that’s another topic for another day). And sure, juries can’t be perfectly impartial, but imagine if juries were allowed to be made up of the accusers’ friends and family. The accused would have no chance at a fair trial. If you’re accused of a crime, wouldn’t you want to be able to confront your accuser in court and provide witnesses to defend yourself? Lastly, most – if not all – of us are incapable of defending ourselves in court. So, we should be thankful that we have a right to a lawyer for our defense.