Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Series on the Loss of Rights: Right to a Jury Trial

In the Constitution, under Amendment #7 (for common law cases) and Amendment #6 (for criminal cases), we as Americans have a right to a jury trial.

A Jury Trial is a group of our peers (12 to be exact) that will hear the facts against us and determine our guilt of the crime or accusation brought against us.

In this trial, the jurors are screened to make sure they are "willing and able to follow the law as instructed by the court". If a potential juror is deemed to be unable, or just plain unacceptable, they are removed from duty. (This removal can happen all the way up to the reading of the verdict)

Jurors are asked to decide based on the law and the facts of the case if the person is guilty, or not guilty. What most people don't know, is that in the beginning of this country, and all the way up until the 1900's, the jurors were also asked to decide if the law itself was just or not. They had the power and the right to decide if a law should be "nullified" or not.

Here are some quotes to get you thinking:

Thomas Jefferson said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which government can be held to the principles of its Constitution."

Alexander Hamilton proclaimed, "Jurors should acquit even against the judges instructions . . . if exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong."

It was designed into the structure of the Constitution for the jury to decide not only guilt or innocence, but also the validity of a law.

But, if the case never makes it to trial, then there will be no jury. No decision by a group of your peers... No justice the way it was designed.

Plea Bargains are the culprits these days. One fact I found is that more than 90% of all cases never make it to trial because of the plea bargaining system.

Here is a quote from the above linked article:

"The rarity of jury trials is not the result of criminals who
come into court to relieve a guilty conscience or save taxpayers
the costs of a trial. The truth is that government officials
have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury
trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used. And
plea bargaining is the primary technique used by the government
to bypass the institutional safeguards in trials."

With the Prosecutors and the Public Defenders working hand in hand (so to speak), it's no wonder we have the highest prison rate in the WORLD.

With this erosion of a system meant to continue the belief "innocent until proven guilty", we see more and more people being bullied into accepting plea deals, missing out on their right of a jury, and also the safeguards that are provided by said jury trials.

With fewer jury trials, people are seeing an astronomical rate of imprisonment. Rates of recidivism are blown out of proportion to their "true" figures because of a watering down of the prison system with people who don't really belong there. Legislators are reacting to give the people a feeling of security. And these laws are being passed without the jury having the ability to dictate how they apply to the court cases. Our Judicial System is in danger of losing it's ability to maintain the "innocent until proven guilty" aspect. Without our juries there to decide cases, the Government perpetuates the cycle of corruption of the system.

Do your part. Ask for a jury trial.


Anonymous said...

Most States have eliminated the 12 member jury except for capitol offenses. In cases of SO the right to confront your accuser does not exhist, and hear say is admissable.
Today a person is considered guilty, until they can prove beyond any doubt otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Taking your case to trial does not mean you'll get a fair trial. In fact, Not taking a plea deal infuriates all involved. 90% plead guilty for a reason. FEAR. They will bring forth false witnesses and will deny facts of your case that defends your position. The police are trained to ONLY collect evidence that will secure a conviction. Who is COLLECTING EVIDENCE FOR YOU. This system does not fight fair. We are "guilty until proven innocent" The prisons have people that tried and failed to fight the system, too. The Innocence Project has proven that.