Founder Friday, Liberty Loft, Sixth Amendment, Fair Trial

Founder Fridays, Pt. 6: Sixth Amendment

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Charlotte, NC — “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 6A establishes a framework for criminal prosecutorial proceedings. The process that was created over 200 years ago has withstood the test of time and has proven to be reliable and just. Except for a few extreme examples, the 6A has largely existed without controversy. The text is concise and does not typically lend itself to progressive interpretation.

The most common argument made against the integrity of the 6A has been politicians’ attempts to expand the enumerated protections beyond “criminal prosecutions”. Civil cases – like impeachment proceedings against a President – do not provide a defendant with the right to face his/her accusers.

Family law, like child custody cases, is likewise “civil” and not “criminal”. Deportation proceedings are also civil and are not protected under the 6A. Dems and Repubs alike have tried to expand the constitutional definitions of the 6A. 

The 6A does, however, apply to corporations but still only in criminal cases. So, as NY’s political lawsuit against the NRA begins to take form, pay close attention to the specific charges levied against the company. The NRA lawsuit will undoubtedly be pursued as a civil case. The state attorney responsible for the charges has campaigned for years against the NRA and will do everything in her power to deny the organization a fair case. Fairness and justice are not the goal but rather political gesturing and virtue signaling. 

Another interesting case study on the 6A will be the way in which the US eventually conducts its trials against military combatants who are currently being held at Gitmo. On one hand, the alleged terrorists are not US citizens nor are they being held on US soil so the argument can be made that they are not afforded the same rights as US citizens.

On the other hand, the SCOTUS ruled by a liberal majority vote in Boumediene vs Bush that enemy combatants including those held at Guantanamo Bay are in fact entitled to 6A protection. If convictions or acquittals in the Gitmo cases were to come before the Supreme Court now the previous decision could be overruled. Among those who dissented in Boumediene vs Bush is John Roberts, who is now, obviously, Chief Justice Roberts. 

Do not be fooled by NY AG Letitia James, who has brought the NRA case forward, or by Senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham who fought to unmask the “whistleblower” during the impeachment proceedings. These are progressive politicians who seek political ends. The conservative position is to interpret the constitution just as it is written. Conservatism has maintained the integrity of the 6A for over 200 years and will continue long after the current set of politicians has faded into history.

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