Origins of American Criminal Law

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Assignment One.
Southworth, Shane, R
LEG 320 Udom, Udoh
January 19, 2012

Origins of American Criminal Law.
The most important source of law is the United States Constitution. The United States Constitution is the foundation of both federal and state laws. The United States Constitution also protects us the people, particularly the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791. One amendment that I feel is most relevant today in criminal law is Amendment VI Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses. According to (Mount, 2011) Amendment VI states “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”. Tom Head wrote (Head, 2012) “The "speedy trial" clause is intended to prevent long-term incarceration and detention without trial--which amounts to a prison sentence without a guilty verdict”. If you were to prolong a trial, over time evidence can become lost, witnesses could and would forget facts, and an innocent person could end up doing time for a crime he did not commit. It is in the best interest of both the prosecution and the defense to have a speedy trial so that the proper facts and evidence can stay fresh. The right to a public trial assures the defendant that a fair hearing can take place. Allowing the public to view a trial helps reduce the risk of an unfair or a bias trial. An impartial jury of the state would be a jury that is not bias and comes from the state and district of which the crime took place. Head (Head, 2012) stated “Not only must jury members not have improper biases before the trial begins, but they must also not be improperly prejudiced by the case or by media coverage of the case.” This is sometimes a challenge to overcome, if we look at the Casey Anthony trial in 2011, we would think that the jury would have known details of the case do to the media coverage it obtained in the years prior to the trial. The defendant should be informed of the nature and reason of the trial is very important, could you imagine a trial where you were the defendant and you had no idea why you were on trial? It is important to know what you’re accused of so you can properly prepare your defense. The defendant has a right to face his accuser or witness against him. Sometimes witnesses get their facts wrong, or misunderstood. The right to face your accuser can give the defendant the opportunity to set the facts straight, or in some cases for an eye witness to realize that they saw a different person. The right to have witnesses in the defendant’s favor has saved many innocent people from a wrongful guilty verdict. There have been many cases dropped just because the defendant can prove an alibi with a witness or two. Everyone has the right to have counsel or attorney during their trial, and if they are unable to afford an attorney that state will provide one to them. The sixth amendment has several rights of a defendant embedded into one amendment, these rights are important to ensure fair trials to all of us today. All State and Federal Courts follow the sixth amendment with great respect, and also with great respect to the other amendments that the United States Constitution brings to us. The judicial system in the United States is a complex system serving over 300 million people in fifty states (Gardner & Anderson, 2011). The United States judicial system is also unique because it is actually made up of two different court systems: the federal court system and the state court systems. Each system is responsible for hearing...
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