[huge_it_share] Essay by: Laurel E. Nitzel
Essay Subject: The right to a trial by jury is a fundamental tenet of our legal system which is enshrined in the United States Constitution. Under current law, however, only people accused of serious crimes that are punishable by more than six months prison have an absolute right to a jury trial. Do you agree with the current state of the law? Why or why not.
Our founding fathers crafted a Constitution with one pivotal notion in mind. America’s foundation lies in its reverence for human rights, inculcated by the founders, and it is around this reverence that the framework for our nation was formed. According to political philosopher John Locke, these rights are summed up as the rights to “life, liberty, and property.” And these rights are truly inalienable unless we choose to jeopardize them by our own actions. In his Second Treatise On Civil Government, John Locke discusses civil society, and our duty as the governed. Initially, we consent to government to be protected from the chaos, which is inevitable in the state of nature, and after we make this decision to be governed, it is our duty to obey the government. For the purpose of government, according to Locke, is the protection of our rights. It is a simple contract: The government commits to protect our rights, and we commit to obey the government, and only once we have harmed the rights of others can the government remove our rights from us. Once we have done something, which infringes on the rights of others in our society, we break the political contract between the government and ourselves, thereby allowing ourselves to be deprived of our liberty through means of imprisonment or other methods.
Yet even though American citizens jeopardize our rights by criminal action, the founders set up several safeguards to further protect our rights. One of these safeguards is the right to trial by jury. At its core, the right to trial by jury is a pure and simple manifestation of American respect for the protection of human rights. The idea behind the jury trial is that no one will be imprisoned for something unjustly. Originally, the law dictated that all criminals, regardless of how extreme or otherwise, were entitled to a fair trial. Today, however, this safeguard has been weakened. The law of today, which only offers a trial by jury to those who deserve punishments of six months or more, has redefined our rights. The effect of this law is to rebalance justice depending on the consequence of the convicted. This is precisely what the Founders opposed. The Constitution outlines a trial by jury for the simple purpose of extra protection of all liberty, blind to the potential punitive impacts for the individuals on trial. The length of imprisonment is irrelevant, because no matter how long or short the period, the imprisoned person is still deprived of their liberty—an inalienable human right. This safeguard, erected to prevent the government from infringing on fundamental rights unjustly, must be reinstated. All criminals, no matter how grave or light their offense may be, deserve to have their liberty protected until proven guilty. If there is even a shadow of doubt that they are innocent, it is the duty of government in its proper pursuit of justice to allow them to be heard in a court of law.