Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No Justice

The Supreme Court has made another infamous ruling. It further erodes the protections against excesses and abuses of our rights. Each one of us, those who have never committed a crime and those who have, need to be worried.

The new ruling affects our 6th Amendment rights:

Amendment VI

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.

At stake is the right to the accused to be represented by counsel. The case involves a man who was appointed a public defender:

At a preliminary hearing, a judge ordered that a public defender be appointed. The timing is in dispute, but at some point Mr. Montejo was read his Miranda rights again and agreed to accompany detectives to locate the murder weapon, which he had indicated that he had thrown into a lake.

During the trip, he wrote a letter of apology to the victim’s widow, using paper and pen provided by the detectives. Only upon his return did Mr. Montejo meet with his lawyer, who was furious that his client had been questioned in his absence, and was further incensed when the letter was admitted as evidence at trial.

This descision also infringes upon our 5th Amendment rights. There are numerous laws, such as the PATRIOT Act, certain laws passed during the war on drugs, and another passed a couple of years ago which infringe upon our 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendment rights. These are not rights that are there just to protect those who have been accused of crimes. They are there to protect everyone's rights. They were framed into our Constitution because of the excesses of British colonial rule. Are we willing to give up those precious rights which protected us from the excesses of a power-hungry government?

Justice Stevens sums it up best:

Mr. Montejo’s Sixth Amendment right to legal representation, as well as his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, were damaged by the ruling, Justice Stevens said.

“Such a decision can only diminish the public’s confidence in the reliability and fairness of our system of justice,” he said.

I disagree with Justice Scalia:

That 1986 ruling has not only proved “unworkable,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority, but its “marginal benefits are dwarfed by its substantial costs” in that some guilty defendants go free.

I tend to think like John Adams:

"The reason is because it's of more importance to the community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished".

No comments: