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Sixth Amendment Violation

The Sixth Amendment addresses the procedures required at trial. It


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 wherein 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

Finally, the Eighth Amendment states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor
excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to draw a bright line separating
permissible pre-trial delays from delays that are impermissibly excessive.
Instead, the Court has developed a Balancing test in which the length of delay is
just one factor to be considered when evaluating the merits of a speedy trial
claim. The other factors to be considered by a court include the reason for the
delay, the severity of prejudice suffered by the defendant from the delay, and the
stage during the criminal proceedings at which the defendant asserted the right
to a speedy trial.

A delay of at least one year in bringing a defendant to trial following arrest

will trigger a presumption that the Sixth Amendment has been violated, with
the level of judicial scrutiny increasing in direct proportion to the length of delay. A
longer delay may be deemed constitutional, however, and a shorter delay may be
deemed unconstitutional, depending on the circumstances.

Longer delays will be permitted to accommodate the schedules of important

witnesses, and to allow the prosecution to prepare for a complex case. Longer
delays will also be tolerated when a defendant is dilatory in asserting the right to
a speedy trial. In general, defendants must assert their Sixth Amendment right in
a timely motion before the trial court. If the defendant fails to assert the right
in this manner or acquiesces in the face of protracted pretrial delays, she
or he may not raise the issue for the first time on appeal, unless the
defendant's failure to raise the issue earlier was due to her or his attorney's
Negligence. Defendants who delay prosecution by inundating the trial court with
frivolous pretrial motions are also treated as having forfeited their rights to a
speedy trial. The law does not allow defendants to profit from their own wrong
under these circumstances.

Delays shorter than a year will be ruled unconstitutional if the reason for delay
offered by the prosecution is unpersuasive or inappropriate. Delays attributable
to prosecutorial misconduct, such as the deliberate attempt by the government to
delay a proceeding and hamper the defense, will run afoul of the Speedy Trial
Clause. Prosecutorial negligence, such as misplacing a defendant's file or losing
incriminating evidence, is also considered an inappropriate reason for delay.
Additionally, delays shorter than a year will be deemed unconstitutional when the
delay has severely limited the opportunity for the accused to defend himself. For
example, the death of an alibi witness who would have been available for a
timely trial is considered Prima Facie evidence of prejudice under the Speedy
Trial Clause.

Speedy Trial Act (18 U.S.C.A. §§ 3161 et seq.) to ameliorate the situation.

Unlike the balancing test created by the Supreme Court to evaluate a claim
under the Speedy Trial Clause, the Speedy Trial Act establishes specific
time limits between various stages of federal criminal proceedings. The act
requires federal authorities to file an information or indictment within 30
days of a defendant's arrest. A prosecutor who knows that an accused is
incarcerated at the time of indictment must take immediate steps to initiate
prosecution. If a defendant enters a plea of not guilty, trial must commence
within 70 days from the filing of the information or indictment or 70 days
from the first appearance of the accused in court, whichever is later.

speedy trial n. in criminal prosecutions, the right of a defendant to demand a

trial within a short time since to be held in jail without trial is a violation of the "due
process" provision of the 5th Amendment (applied to the states by the 14th
Amendment). Each state has a statute or constitutional provision limiting
the time an accused person may be held before trial (eg. 45 days). Charges
must be dismissed and the defendant released if the period expires without
trial. However, defendants often waive the right to a speedy trial in order to
prepare a stronger defense, and if the accused is free on bail he/she will not be
hurt by the waiver. (See: trial)
Judge The judge presides over the court and is the central figure in a trial. It is
the presiding judge's responsibility to conduct an orderly trial and to assure the
proper administration of justice in his court. The judge decides all legal questions
that arise during the trial, controls the presentation of evidence by the parties,
instructs the jury, and generally directs every aspect of the trial. The judge must
be impartial, and any matter that lends even the appearance of impartiality
to the trial may disqualify the judge. Because of his importance, the presiding
judge must be present in court from the opening of the trial until its close and
must be easily accessible during jury trials while the jury is deliberating on its

The judge holds a place of honor in the courtroom. The judge sits above the
attorneys, the parties, the jury, and the witness stand. Everyone in the courtroom
must stand when the judge enters or exits the courtroom. The judge is addressed
as "your Honor" or "the Court." In the United States, judges usually wear black
robes during trials, which signify the judges' importance. The judge will conduct
the trial with dignity. If the judge feels that a person is detracting from the dignity
of the proceedings or otherwise disrupting the courtroom, he or she may have
the person removed.

A trial judge has broad powers in his courtroom. In general, the presiding judge
has discretion on all matters relating to the orderly conduct of a trial, except those
matters regulated by rule or statute. The judge controls routine matters such as
the time when court convenes and adjourns and the length of a recess. When the
parties offer evidence, the judge rules on any legal objections. The judge also
instructs the jury on the law after all of the evidence has been submitted.

Although the judge has broad discretion during the trial, his rulings must not be
Arbitrary or unfair. Also, the judge must not prejudice the jury against any of the
parties. Unless special circumstances are present, however, a party can do little
during the trial if it disagrees with a ruling by the judge. The judge's decision is
usually final for the duration of the trial, and the party's only recourse is to appeal
the judge's decision after the trial has ended.

Jury The jury is a group of citizens who are charged with finding facts and
reaching a verdict based on the evidence presented during the trial. The jury
renders a verdict decisive of the action by applying the facts to the law, which is
explained to the jury by the judge. The jury is chosen from the men and women
in the community where the trial is held. The number of jurors required for the
trial is set by statute or court rule. Criminal trials usually require 12 jurors,
whereas civil trials commonly use six-person juries. Also, alternate jurors are
selected in the event that a regular juror becomes unable to serve during the trial.
Longer trials require more alternate jurors. The jurors sit in the jury box and
observe all of the evidence offered during the trial. After the evidence is offered,
the judge instructs the jury on the law, and the jury then begins deliberations,
after which it will render a verdict based on the evidence and the judge's
instructions on the law. In civil trials, the jury determines whether the defendant is
liable for the injuries claimed by the plaintiff. In criminal trials, the jury determines
the guilt of the accused.