“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 defence.”
The Sixth Amendment seems clear enough to me, but apparently not to those in charge of “the system”. Michael Sniffen and John Solomon report:
Despite the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of public trials, nearly all records are being kept secret for more than 5,000 defendants who completed their journey through the federal courts over the last three years.
Instances of such secrecy more than doubled from 2003 to 2005.
“What makes the American criminal justice system different from so many others in the world is our willingness to cast some sunshine on the process, but if you can’t see it, you can’t really criticize it,” Levenson said.
The courts’ administrative office and the Justice Department declined to comment on the numbers.
The data show a sharp increase in secret case files over time as the Bush administration’s well-documented reliance on secrecy in the executive branch has crept into the federal courts through the war on drugs, anti-terrorism efforts and other criminal matters.
“When the sentences are sealed, that’s a con on the community,” said Lexi Christ, a Washington defense lawyer for a man acquitted in a crack cocaine case.
What’s next? Holding people without charges, secret detention centers and even torture?