The Sixth Amendment

Still continuing my Bill of Rights series. It is time for the Sixth Amendment. I have reproduced it below.

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.

This one is actually pretty straightforward, so this will be a short one. The basic idea is, you have the right to:

  • A public trial, held within a reasonable time from when you are formally charged,
  • The trial and verdict must be conducted by a jury that is:
    • Impartial
    • Composed of people from the place in which the crime was committed
    • Clearly informed about the nature of the crime you have been accused of committing
  • You must be able to confront (question) any witnesses against you
  • You may compel others to appear to testify in your favor
  • You may have a lawyer provide counsel for your defense

Most people are generally familiar with and understand this amendment, and generally agree with it. I think there is actually a subtle way in which this could be used to violate our Liberty Framework. Why should anyone be forced to appear in court to testify because you have been accused of a crime? They haven’t violated anyone’s rights, and forcing them to do something against their will would be a violation of their rights.

Also, the last clause is interpreted by most people that you must be provided with legal counsel, possibly at no cost to you. But how is that legal counsel obtained? If you are not paying for it, then either the lawyer is being forced to provide services against his will, which is a violation of their rights, or they are being paid for their services with money stolen from others, which is also a violation of rights, unless the lawyer has agreed to donate his services.

Like most of the Bill of Rights, I agree with the Sixth Amendment, except for the subtle possibility that exists with the final clauses for some rights to be violated.

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