The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to be tried 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….” This provision gives the accused the right to be tried by an impartial jury in the area where the crime was committed.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “It will be recalled that in the body of the Constitution, Article III, section 2 provided that `the trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury.’ This is therefore the second time this guarantee of a constitutional right has been mentioned….
“The importance of this provision is borne out by the records of many judicial hearings of the past where there has been an attempt to breach these protective barriers.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 707-708.)
Albert W. Alschuler of The Heritage Foundation further explained, “The Framers of the Constitution of 1787 and of the Bill of Rights revered trial by jury…. By the time of the Framing, common-law juries had a more than five-century history in England. They had been part of the American experience from the start. Although juries then were considerably less representative of the adult population than they are today, they were the most democratic of the governmental institutions in the colonies. Most Americans cheered their resistance to repressive colonial measures, especially British revenue laws and seditious libel laws.
“In some colonies, juries had the power to judge questions of law as well as fact. They consisted of twelve people who always acted by unanimous vote. In felony cases, nonjury trials were unknown, and guilty pleas infrequent. Trials were expeditious and routine…. (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp.348-349.)