Introduction The Bill of Rights provides certain rights to criminal defendants during trial. There are two fundamental aspects of the U. S. criminal justice system: The presumption that the defendant is innocent, and the burden on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Assuming the defendant does not plea-bargain, a trial will probably result. Thus, it is important to focus on constitutional rights during the trial stage. The three rights considered in this paper are the right to a speedy trial, the right to an impartial judge, and the right to an impartial jury.
Criminal defendants have other rights, too including the right to remain silent, confront witnesses, have a public trial, have a jury trial, have a speedy trial, be represented by an attorney, receive adequate representation, and not be tried twice for the same offense also known as double jeopardy. Right to a Speedy Trial The Sixth Amendment honors a defendants a right to a “speedy trial. ” However, it does not insist on a precise time restriction. Thus, judges often have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a defendant’s trial has been so delayed that the case should be thrown out.
In making this decision, judges look at the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, and whether the delay has harmed the defendant’s position. Every jurisdiction has enacted statutes that set time limits for moving cases from the filing of the initial charge to trial. While these statutes are very strict in their wording, most defendants cannot get their convictions reversed on the ground that these statutes were violated. ” “In Barker v. Wingo, the court elaborated on these points: if an accused cannot make bail, he is generally confined, as was the defendant for 10 months, in a local jail.
This contributes to P a g e | 2 the overcrowding and generally deplorable state of those institutions. Lengthy exposure to these conditions “has a destructive effect on human character and makes the rehabilitation of the individual offender much more difficult. At times the result may even be violent rioting. Finally, lengthy pretrial detention is costly. The cost of maintaining a prisoner in jail varies from $3 to $9 per day, and this amounts to millions across the Nation. In addition, society loses wages which might have been earned, and it must often support families of incarcerated breadwinners.
Not only does the defense benefit from a speedy trial, but so do the government and even society at large. First, having a speedy trial provides the opportunity for a guilty verdict to be secured quickly. Also, having a speedy trial minimizes the opportunity for an individual out on bail to commit additional crimes while awaiting trial. However, if the accused is kept in detention prior to trial, too much delay can take a financial toll on the government.
Right to an Impartial Jury Defendants have the right to a quick trial by a jury of people who are not involved with the case, and who are not biased against them. Further, the trial must take place in the area where the alleged crime was committed. These protections are part of due process rights protected by the Fifth Amendment. Fairness as a standard of the right to trial by jury is served not only by the Sixth Amendment, which is as valid to the States as to the Federal Government, but as well by the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth, and possibly the due process clause of the fifth amendment and the Court’s regulatory power has been directed to the issue in the federal.
Prior to the Court’s extension of an accurate to jury trials in state courts, it was firmly established that if a State chose to provide juries they must be unbiased ones. Right to an Impartial Judge “Judges play many roles. They interpret the law, evaluate the evidence presented, and regulate how hearings and trials unfold in their courtrooms. Most important of all, judges are impartial decision-makers in the pursuit of justice. We have what is known as an adversarial system of justice – legal cases are contests between opposing sides, which ensures that evidence and legal arguments will be fully and forcefully presented.
The judge, however, remains above the fray, providing an independent and impartial assessment of the facts and how the law applies to those facts. ” (http://www. cscja-acjcs. ca/role_of_judge-en. asp? l=5) Many criminal cases and almost all civil ones are heard by a judge only and not with a jury. The judge is the “trier of fact,” determining whether the evidence is credible and which witnesses are telling the truth.
Then the judge applies the law to these details to regulate whether a civil claim has been established on a balance of probabilities or whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in criminal cases, that the suspect is guilty. Anyone who faces five years or more in prison if convicted of a crime has the right, under the Charter, to request a jury trial, and many defendants facing serious offenses such as murder opt to have a jury hear their case. The jurors become the triers of fact and assess the P a g e | 4 evidence while the judge takes on the role of legal advisor, explaining the law to the jurors.
The jurors then retire to deliberate on a verdict. In criminal cases the jury’s verdict, either “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” must be unanimous. “It is not enough for the judiciary, as an institution, to be independent – individual judges must be seen to be objective and impartial. In their personal lives, judges must avoid words, actions or situations that might make them appear to be biased or disrespectful of the laws they are sworn to uphold. They must treat lawyers, clients and witnesses with respect and must refrain from comments that suggest they have made up their minds in advance.
Outside the courtroom, judges do not socialize or associate with lawyers or other persons connected with the cases they hear, or they may be accused of favoritism. Judges typically declare a conflict and withdraw from a case that involves relatives or friends. The same is true if the case involves a former client, a member of the judge’s former law firm, law partners or a former business associate, at least until a year or two has passed since the judge was appointed and those ties were severed.
Judges often choose to avoid most forms of community involvement. A judge may undertake community or charitable work but cannot offer legal or investment advice. Judges cannot take part in politics, either as a party member, fundraiser or donor, and many choose to relinquish their right to vote. While judges have been more willing in recent years to make public speeches or agree to media interviews, they refrain from expressing opinions on legal issues that could come before them in a future case. Judges are forbidden from being paid to do anything other than their judicial duties, but can accept appointments to serve on royal commissions, inquiries and other official investigations. ” (http://www. cscja-acjcs. ca/independent_impartial- P a g e | 5 en. asp? l=5).
Therefore, there are many ways that a defendant’s rights can be assured which is by making sure that all of these requirements are met. Our Criminal Justice system has come a long way in assuring defendants have a fair, speedy and legit process in the courts system.
References Alschulert, A. (2008) Implementing the Criminal Defendant’s Right to Trial: Alternatives to the Plea Bargaining Worral. J. L. (2012). Criminal Procedure: From first contact to appeal.
(4th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Criminal Defendants’ Rights during Trial: The Bill of Rights (2014) Retrieved from http://www. nolo. com/legal-encyclopedia/defendants-rights-during-court-trial-29793. html Sixth Amendment on the Impartial Jury. (2008) Retrieved from http://constitution. findlaw. com/amendment6/annotation05. html#sthash. CJWuDHBP. dpuf The Role of the Judge (2006) Retrieved from http://www. cscja-acjcs. ca/role_of_judge- en. asp? l=5 Chayes, A. (2000) The Role of the Judge in Public Law Litigation. The Harvard Law Association Review.