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Confrontation Clause Protecting Rights of Accused

One of the fundamental components of the Bill of Rights included in the Sixth Amendment is the confrontation clause that illustrates the rights to be applied in all criminal prosecutions. The accused, prosecutor, and witnesses need to act and be treated fairly based on the constitutional stipulations. The confrontation clause indicates that the accused has a right to be confronted by witnesses related to the case during criminal prosecutions. Consequently, according to the clause, criminal defendants are guaranteed a face-to-face interaction with the prosecution’s witnesses and a chance to challenge their testimonies where necessary. Moreover, it is important to note that this right is relevant to all statements made in and out of the court as long as they are connected to the pieces of evidence submitted during trials. However, the involved guarantees are only limited to criminal cases and cannot be applied in family or civil cases.

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Initially, state governments were exempted from the laws related to the confrontation clause as stipulated in the sixth amendment, which raised concerns from citizens and activists. However, the issue was resolved in the passing of the 14th amendment, which implemented the clause in federal and state courts. For instance, in the case, Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), where Garner’s son was shot and killed by a police officer, the latter who reported the case was allowed to confront the latter on the reasons for his actions. The session ensured that the evidence needed to convict the officer was holistic and not only based on written evidence.

A perfect example of a case that shaped the application of the right to confrontation as stipulated in the sixth amendment is that of Crawford v. Washington in 2004. During the trial, the Supreme Court enhanced the probe from whether the pieces of evidence presented demonstrated an “indicia of reliability” to if it was testimonial hearsay. The change was from a subjective approach to investigating the authenticity of the evidence to a procedural one that questioned whether the defendant was given the right to be confronted by the accuser. The court supported the shift because the pieces of evidence can be fabricated, and accusers can fake stories when making statements. Consequently, allowing the suspect to have a face-to-face interaction with the accuser results in a more objective prosecution process.

However, when implementing the confrontation clause, it is necessary to note that if the statement initially made was testimonial, the same witness must be at the court’s disposal for a cross-examination. The only exception to this part of the amendment is if the witness is not reachable due to various reasons such as death or illness. Moreover, they can be threatened or injured by accomplices and the perpetrators before making their statements which generally compromises the credibility of the given information. Nonetheless, even when the accuser is not accessible, the defendant must have an initial chance to challenge the witness’ statements through cross-examination.

It is also important to note that aside from health-related reasons, witnesses might not be reachable if they claim the Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination. In such instances, the life and safety of the witness are prioritized, and other alternatives can be considered that do not expose the accuser. Consequently, the federal witness protection program was established to prevent instances where witnesses suddenly disappear before trials begin. The strategy requires that the witnesses stay away from their homes and families until the case is complete and it is safe to return to their place of residence. The confrontation is concerned about the rights of both the accuser and the defendant because they all need to be satisfied by the outcomes of the trial process.

For any law, there are violations, and regarding the confrontation clause, major infringements occur in instances where the accused is denied an opportunity to cross-examine the involved witnesses. The clause can only be declared active or fulfilled whenever the defendant has been granted enough time to confront their accusers and vice versa. Moreover, the Supreme Court exercises this part of the amendment by ensuring that the cross-examination process is standardized and not executed based on the defendant’s preference. Additionally, trial courts are barred from interfering with cross-examination activities on any subject. This component of the rule ensures that neither the judges nor members of the jury limit the defendants’ right to confront witnesses. Not even the courts have the power to deny the accused the opportunity to challenge the statements made by witnesses.

Nonetheless, there are valid exceptions in the administration of the confrontation clause. Based on the observations made by the Supreme Court in the Crawford v. Washington case, these instances include dying declarations and forfeiture by misconduct. Even though the Crawford case indicated the former as an exception to the right of confrontation, the national court system has not fully embraced it as part of the entire confrontation clause. There are cases such as Michigan v. Bryant, where the exemption is not applied in oral arguments. Although dying declarations can be used in courts, it would be impossible to apply the confrontation clause because the witness might not be present during trial sessions. Nonetheless, forfeiture by misconduct is clear enough and applies in situations where the accused purposely prevents the witness from testifying and therefore is denied the right of confrontation on that basis. The confrontation clause is a significant part of current criminal courts, and all the underlying requirements and exemptions need to consider for successful implementation.

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