Sixth Amendment

Right to a Fair Trial

Description of the Amendment

English criminal trials before the twelfth century took place in forms that seem odd to modern observers. For example in "trial by battle" persons accused of crime would fight their accusers to determine who "won" the case. Even innocent defendants did not fare well in such trials. Meaning of this amendment is the person who is accused of crime by the government has the right to know what they have been accused of and why, also the defendants have the right to a lawyer, the government must provide one if the defendant cannot afford one.

Supreme Court Case

The Supreme Court first addressed the speedy trial clause in Beavers v. Haubert (1905). In that case a defendant faced criminal charges in New York and in the District of Columbia, and the New York court allowed the District of Columbia court to hold its trial first. The defendant argued that his right to a speedy trial in New York was being obstructed. The Supreme Court held that each case must be judged on its own circumstances. Since the delay in this case was caused by another trial, the Court ruled that the public’s right to try the defendant for both crimes outweighed the defendant’s right to a swift trial in New York.
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