Topic: Should the Rights of the Accused Be Curtailed?

Topics: United States Constitution, Crime, Federal government of the United States Pages: 9 (2921 words) Published: April 4, 2012
Topic: Should the rights of the accused be curtailed?

Can we as a nation, strike a balance between the liberty of the individual and the safety of citizens? And in order to strike that balance, should the bill of rights protect those accused of crimes? This contentious issue is one that causes us to truly think about our constitution’s purpose and how it is currently evolving within our country’s judicial system. On the one hand, many believe that because the nations’ crimes being committed are increasing in severity the rights of those accused of crimes should be curtailed. While on the other hand, many are not in favor of curtailing rights because they feel our legal system is designed to be just for all persons. The framers of our constitution, made a special emphasis on the rights of the accused in order to protect the individual from tyranny and unjustly convictions. Now as time progresses, we must question if the constitution protects the rights of the accused more than its victims and if so how can we go about striking the balance between the two.

The Framers of the constitution carried a great deal of baggage with them regarding government. Coming out of Britain, where the government represented tyranny and engaged in unfair practices that disrupted and often times ruined the lives of so many. The framers of this constitution did not want the same principles incorporated in the foundation of the thirteen colonies later becoming the United States of America. That is why the Constitution and the Bill of Rights showed a great deal of emphasis on the individual and the protections those individuals were entitled to. The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and fourteenth amendments were all aimed at ensuring the rights of those accused of crimes be protected. The writ of habeas corpus, trial by jury, self- incrimination, double jeopardy, no excessive punishments, search warrants and due process of law are all protections indicated in those amendments.

Today’s ordinary citizen probably believes the Bill of Rights was automatically instituted when the United States Constitution was drafted and signed. The bill of rights, a document used to govern was not implemented upon creation and continues to be a work in progress. It was not until the 1920s that certain rights were upheld. Amendments that protected the rights of those accused of crimes, such as the fourth, fifth, sixth and fourteenth were only carried out by the federal government; criminal cases that were tried in state courts were subjected to state’s legislation, which differed from federal laws. Federal courts did not intervene in the states proceedings. Landmark case such as the, Scottsboro boys in 1931, grabbed the attention of our federal government. The federal government was then forced to intervene, redefining the criminal procedure in our country.

Scottsboro Boys

The most famous and tragic court cases in American history were the story of the “Scottsboro boys”. The case of the Scottsboro boys called attention to our judicial system as it relates to the relationship between state and federal governments. The United States Constitution included a number of rights for accused persons but it was solely up to the state to implement those laws. Until this point in history, state governments were in total control of interpreting the constitution as they seemed fit and the federal government saw no reason to intervene in states judicial affairs. The rights of the accused may have been enacted in state and federal legislation but it would decades before it truly began to be implemented, the Scottsboro boys changed this reality. This case not only critically examined race relations as it pertains to the law but it also greatly influenced the ways in which the rights of the accused are enforced.

On March 25, 1931, a group of nine black young men rode a southern railroad train from Chattanooga to...
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