Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Sixth Amendment Under Attack
The Sixth Amendment:
"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 where in 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."
The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule the 1986 Michigan v. Jackson decision in which the Supreme Court said that police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one unless the attorney is present. I can't believe the left isn't coming unglued on this one, or the ACLU for that matter. I'm betting that they will.
The left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center has weighed in: Stephen Bright, a lawyer who works with poor defendants at the Southern Centre for Human Rights in Atlanta, described the administration's position as "disappointing - no question".
Ed Morrissey questions the logic behind finding this out from a British newspaper, which is a valid point. Not a word in the New York Times. He also writes:
"Rolling back Michigan v Jackson would be a mistake. People who ask for an attorney should get one without further questioning. Americans have the right to counsel at all stages of the process, not just in court, as Obama argues. The adversarial process begins with arrest and interrogation, not when people first face a judge. While Miranda has been turned into a fetish, Michigan actually does the work Miranda promises — to get people counsel when they most need it. That does serve a real purpose, despite what Obama argues."
There seems to be the possibility for a domino effect here; once you lose one of your constitutional rights they all are in jeopardy. The Second Amendment is constantly under attack. The Fairness Doctrine attacks the First Amendment. And now the Sixth Amendment is under fire. Where will it end?
How many criminal convictions would later be questioned because the accused didn't get a lawyer under interrogation? What about the poor, the mentally deficient, the unsophisticated, the handicapped? No lawyer?
If Michigan v. Jackson is overruled, what of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)? That ruling said counsel must be provided in criminal cases for defendants unable to afford their own attorneys or lawyers.
HuffPo says a decision to hear the case could come as early as Friday. It seems that this administration is treating the terrorists better than American citizens.
Update: Related Link: SCOTUS Blog