The 6th Amendment: Providing Justice for Everyone
Prior to the Revolutionary War, if the British accused a colonist of a crime, he would most likely receive an unfair trial and a prison sentence. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they believed that all Americans deserved rights which the British had not given them. The 6th Amendment provides many legal rights to United States citizens that protect them from being wrongly convicted of crimes. The 6th Amendment is the most important amendment in the Constitution of the United States.
The 6th Amendment guarantees a person accused of a crime compulsory process, the right to present witnesses in his defense. The importance of compulsory process is illustrated in the case Washington vs. Texas, where Jackie Washington was tried for murder. A state court ruled that Washington could not have an accomplice in the crime testify in his defense. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s refusal to allow the defendant a capable witness violated the 6th Amendment. Therefore, the Supreme Court overruled the court’s conviction of Washington.
In addition, the right of cross-examination is a necessity for an accused person. In Smith vs. Illinois, the state of Illinois convicted Fleming Smith for the illegal sale of drugs. The evidence against Smith consisted of statements by an undercover policeman who did not appear at the trial because the police claimed that revealing the policeman’s identity would expose secretive strategies used by the police. Smith appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that his 6th Amendment rights had been violated. Agreeing with Smith, the Supreme Court said that no matter the circumstances, a defendant must be confronted with all witnesses testifying against him. These rights regarding witnesses are necessary for a defendant who wishes to have evidence in his defense.
The 6th Amendment also provides an accused individual with the right to counsel, or a lawyer. While the interpretation of this right has been debated, it is now understood that in all cases where conviction would result in imprisonment,...