Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Glade Sun

May 8, 2013

Scout Report: Can I get a witness?

CROSSVILLE — The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution describes seven separate rights, the first three of which I discussed last week:

1. The right to a speedy trial.

2. The right to a public trial.

3. The right to be judged by an impartial jury.

4. The right to be notified of the nature and circumstances of the alleged crime.

5. The right to confront witnesses who will testify against the accused.

6. The right to find witnesses who will speak in favor of the accused.

7. The right to have a lawyer.

I never will forget about a situation I found myself in when I was in the seventh grade. Through the grapevine of adolescent whispers I had heard that a ninth grader was looking for me because he wanted to fight. Now, I had never even met this kid. At the time, I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup. Needless to say, I was a bit confused about what his beef with me was but, regardless of the reason, my reputation was at stake. Fighting, for me, has always been like jumping in a mud puddle – I'll do everything I can to avoid it, but once I'm in it, I like to roll around until I'm completely covered from head to toe.

So, anyway, as I squared off with the kid in front of a crowd that had gathered behind the football field like Romans in the Colosseum, I asked him, "What's your problem, why do you want to fight me?" To which he replied "None of your damn business!" I still chuckle about the irony in that statement every time I think about it.

An "arraignment" is a formal accusation where specific charges are presented to you, to include dates, times, exactly what supposedly happened and exactly what law was broken. The Arraignment Clause was very important to the founders, since many had come to the New World to escape religious and political persecution.

The notion that people have a right to know what they have been charged with is second nature in today's society. Most Americans couldn't imagine life any other way. However, that was not always the case. Remember, everything in the Constitution as it was originally ratified stemmed from the Founding Fathers' direct experience as well as their exhaustive understanding of history.

In England, it was quite common for the government, be it church or kings, to bring people who disagreed with them before the courts, where the dissenters would be sentenced to prison without ever finding out what the charges were against them. Prior to the 1100s, it was possible to be imprisoned or executed on accusations alone; no proof was necessary. Villagers could put a pointy hat and nose on a woman, call her a witch and have her burned at the stake. If that sounds like a scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," that's because it is. As ridiculous as their comedy may seem, it's actually historically accurate (Terry Jones is a medieval historian.), albeit presented in satirical fashion.

The Arraignment Clause protection works to ensure that a crime has actually been committed by requiring specific charges to be levied before a person can be tried. Without it, liberty could be taken at the whim of corrupt officials.

The Confrontation Clause asserts a defendant's right to be confronted by the witnesses against them. The purpose of this protection is not so that witnesses can be intimidated by the accused, rather so that judges and juries can have the advantage of observing the demeanor of the person leveling accusations. Moreover, it gives the defendant a chance to cross-examine anyone who makes statements against them, thereby increasing the opportunity for the truth to be exposed. Prior to this guarantee, the accuser didn't even have to be in the courtroom, as it was in the the landmark case against Sir Walter Raleigh (famous for establishing the first British colony in America).  Raleigh had been implicated in treason against the king by a letter that was written by one of the conspirators, who is thought to have written it in an attempt to save his own skin after being caught in a plot. The letter was read to the jury without giving Raleigh the opportunity to cross-examine his alleged co-conspirator. In 1603, Raleigh was convicted and eventually beheaded. Later, one of his trial judges said, "the justice of England has never been so degraded and injured as by the condemnation of Sir Walter Raleigh."

The Compulsory Process Clause allows the defendant to call upon witnesses who may help his or her case. This clause serves two functions: first that you may call witnesses who can vouch for your innocence, and second that the court will subpoena a witness that refuses to testify on your behalf should they have knowledge of your innocence. Prior to the Bill of Rights, it was both English and colonial practice not to allow a person to testify on their own behalf. The reasoning behind this being that the testimony of people who were accused was thought to be unreliable due to their vested personal interest in the outcome. However, the accused may be able to provide proof that they were somewhere else when the crime was committed or know something about who really did it. Being able to defend one's self is a hallmark of freedom. 

And finally, the Right to Counsel Clause was established simply for the fact that the legal system can be too complicated for the average person to navigate. Today, there are more than 4,500 criminal offenses in the U.S. Code, and tens of thousands of offenses in the Code of Federal Regulations, which runs more than 157,000 pages long. Most lawyers even have trouble keeping up.

As the supreme law of the land, the Sixth Amendment makes one thing abundantly clear, if someone accuses you of something, it is your "damn business."

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
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
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