Like many of the other amendments, the 6th Amendment specifies rights we now take for granted as basic human rights when it comes to criminal proceedings. It is difficult for me to imagine a time when these rights denied to criminal defendants. The thought of no time requirements only to end in a trial, closed to the public with no jury, no defense witnesses or legal defense is terrifying.
In many of my other essays, I think my search for and value of the truth echo those of the constitutional writers. The purpose of the investigative and judicial portions of the criminal justice system is to find the truth. If the wrong person is found guilty, two sins have been committed. First, the guilty is going free and second, an innocent person is deprived of his liberty, reputation and possibly his life.
I have been involved in hundreds of homicide, sex assault, robbery, burglary and assault investigations. I have spent thousands of hours with the victim’s and survivors. They talk about wanting justice but it doesn’t take long to hear that they are talking about revenge. They want someone to pay for the pain they have had to endure.
Anyone who is attached with the trauma of the crime is very susceptible to falling into the same trap. Investigators, prosecutors, judges and juries are not immune. The 5th and 6th Amendments are acts of sanity which try to pull back on the reigns of the momentum of the victim’s and community’s lust for revenge.
I frequently hear “It’s not fair, the suspect’s have all the rights and the victim’s have none.” In one sense, they are absolutely right, this is the “Criminal justice System.” In recent years that cry has been heard by the legislature. Most states, including Colorado, have a Victim Rights Amendment.
But that is another topic for next week…..