Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

April 4, 2013

SCOUT REPORT: Prosecuting ham sandwiches

CROSSVILLE — Unlike the modern monstrosities of legal contortionism that have become commonplace, one does not need to be a legal scholar to comprehend the meaning of the Bill of Rights. It is genius in its simplicity. The protections afforded in this covenant are self-evident, although knowing the backstories can certainly help foster a deeper understanding of why these protections are so important. Experience being the best teacher, each amendment is derived from a lesson the framers learned from history – lessons they learned so well that the United States has managed to remain the longest running constitutional republic in world history.

Last week, I began covering the origins of the Fifth Amendment, which reads as follows:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The Fifth Amendment is separated into five basic clauses: the grand jury clause, double jeopardy clause, due process clause, eminent domain clause and the most commonly known self-incrimination clause. Each of these were designed to keep the government from imprisoning its enemies.

The first clause of the Fifth Amendment is known as the grand jury clause. The grand jury system originated in England as the Assize of Claredon, which was enacted by King Henry II during the 12th century. King Henry devised this system as a way to take power from the Catholic Church, while also giving him a tool to use against his political enemies. The king appointed "justices in eyre" who traveled around from town to town, summoning free men from the surrounding areas to report any major crimes in the community that they had knowledge of (robbery, theft, murder, forgery, arson, etc). These primitive grand juries only brought accusations ("She turned me into a newt!"), they did not weigh guilt or innocence. The accused would then face the traditional trial by ordeal. Trial by ordeal generally involved some unpleasant feat of survival that was more often than not to be determined by a miracle, such as walking over hot coals or retrieving a stone from boiling water – after which, the hand or feet would be wrapped and examined after three days; if God had not healed the wounds, the accused were found guilty.

Over the course of about 500 years, the system evolved into a protection against government persecution rather than one that reinforced it. Requiring a grand jury to bring serious charges became a powerful tool, so long as the jurors were independent of the court and prosecution. For example, in the previously discussed 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger ("The Germ of Freedom"), the grand jury refused to indict Zenger three times.

Today, grand juries are panels of citizens that  are supposed to serve two functions: 1) examine evidence to determine whether or not there is enough probable cause to bring charges against someone and, 2) serve as the investigative arm of the government and help the prosecution gather evidence. However, our laws have become so complicated that jurors must rely heavily on the prosecution to walk them through the process. Rather than acting as a shield against "ill-conceived or malicious prosecutions," grand juries have formed a habit of rubber-stamping whatever the prosecution brings before them. As Former New York State Judge Sol Wachtler famously noted, "Any prosecutor who wanted to could indict a ham sandwich."

The double jeopardy clause stipulates that, once acquitted, a person may not be tried for the same crime twice in criminal court. In comparison to an individual, the government has virtually endless resources. If not for the double jeopardy clause, the government could perpetually bring charges against an individual, thereby having the potential to inflict bankruptcy upon its enemies and increasing the likelihood of erroneous convictions. The double jeopardy clause does not apply to civil litigation though, since the punishment does not affect "life or limb." For example, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murder charges against Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman; however, he was found guilty in the civil trial, resulting in millions of dollars being paid in restitution for wrongful death.

Due process of law is a fundamental guarantee that all legal proceedings will be conducted in a fair and organized manner, and that the government cannot arbitrarily deny citizens their rights to life, liberty and property ... unless, of course, they are found to be in violation of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, in which case they can be detained indefinitely without trial. More on that, next time. 

1
Text Only
Glade Sun
  • County residents urged to vote

    Cumberland County has around 39,000 registered voters, as well as a strong reputation for voter participation.  However, as of press time on Tuesday, only 4,300 residents had taken advantage of early voting for the Aug. 7 primary and general elections. Local officials are predicting less than 50 percent of registered voters will cast their vote in the 14 days of early voting, plus election day. Only 23 percent of registered county voters participated in the May elections.

    July 30, 2014

  • Board amends by-laws

    At the July meeting of the Fairfield Glade Community Club, the board of directors approved a vote to amend the club's bylaws regarding uncontested elections of board members, effectively declaring Bob Diller and Steven Smith new board members.

    July 30, 2014

  • Naiad Kuhlman.jpg Senior olympian on the run for good health

    No one can get away with telling Naiad Kuhlman of Crossville that age is a barrier to exercise. The avid runner, personal trainer and instructor at Cumberland Medical Center’s Wellness Complex at Fairfield Glade won’t buy the excuse.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Enjoying nature.jpg Get your mink coat on the road

    It is interesting what animals you see crossing the roads sometimes. When animals cross roads, you can get a look at them, that wouldn't be possible if they stayed inside the cover of trees or grass. Sometimes, it is just a fleeting glance and you aren't sure what you saw. When you go into the woods looking for animals, they usually hide or leave the area before you even know they are around. But, roads are wide open with no cover. Also, most mammals are nocturnal, so they are out when we aren't. Anytime that I am on a two-lane road at night, I am always watching intently for wildlife in the headlights.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Read the latest edition of "The Bulletin"

    The Crossville Chronicle-Glade Sun also publishes a newsletter called "The Bulletin" in which you'll find a schedule of Glade activities and events, a restaurant and dining guide, golf information, and even tour schedules. Click here for the latest PDF edition of "The Bulletin."

    April 21, 2010 1 Link

  • Patches of Life: The replacement years

    I need a new refrigerator. There are some other things on order too as we seem to be in the replacement year of our life. Everything from the light bulbs to the computer seemed to agree that this is the year of replacement.

    July 30, 2014

  • Abacus Column: Tennessee the third most corrupt state in the U.S.?

    According to a recent article in Time magazine, Tennessee is ranked third among U.S. States in political corruption. I am not sure how they measure such crime in order to make such a charge. Does some purveyor of statistics identify the number of elected officials proved guilty in a court of law; or merely charged with corruption?

    July 30, 2014

  • A Time 4 Paws celebrates pet adoption after 3 1/2 years

    Three and a half years ago, a local no-kill animal welfare organization known as A Time 4 Paws (AT4P) received an important email. A Nashville animal shelter volunteer asked if AT4P could take two severely abused English Pointer mixes. The email said they didn't want to take back two dogs they had placed in foster care for fear they would have to kill them.

    July 30, 2014

  • A Time 4 Paws collecting shoes to help Soles4Souls in fight against global poverty

    Attention anyone with a closet! Those shoes no longer wanted are desperately needed to fight the human tragedy of global poverty.
    That’s the message being delivered by A Time 4 Paws, which has launched an ongoing drive to collect shoes to help the poor. Used and new shoes can be dropped off at A Time 4 Paws in Crossville and can be left in the blue recycling bin outside labeled Soles4Souls.

    July 30, 2014

  • FFG Treasure Hunt set for Sept. 5

    The 2014 Fairfield Glade Treasure Hunt is set for Friday, Sept. 5. This has always been a fun evening for those who enjoy puzzle solving, figuring out clues or just having a good time.

    July 30, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014