Sunday, May 16, 2010

Take that, Chicken Little

Every time defenders like me go to the courts and argue that some procedural short-cut set out by statute runs afoul of defendants' constitutional rights, the state invariably responds that the extra procedures we're asking for would sink the criminal justice system.  That was the refrain when we argued that forensic lab analysts should actually have to testify in court.  States had been getting by with just introducing the lab results in court, which defense-types thought was not quite in keeping with the Confrontation Clause.  The states pitched a fit and warned us all the system would crumble or grind to a halt or [insert catastrophic hyperbole here].  And yet the U.S. Supreme Court ruled almost a year ago that those analysts really did have to testify and the world has not fallen apart. 

Similarly, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled almost two years ago that juveniles in this state are entitled to a jury trial.  Based on the phrasing in our state constitution and the nature of our juvenile justice system, our court found that the Kansas Constitution's provision that the right to a jury trial is "inviolate" does apply to juveniles.  According to this article published in today's Topeka paper, the Kansas criminal justice system has not crumbled under the tremendous weight of respecting the rights of juvenile defendants.  Nobody can point to any serious issues anywhere in the state as a result of the Court's crazy decision that juvenile defendants are defendants, too.  And once again we learn that there won't actually be dire consequences if we just follow the darn (state or federal) constitution. 


Natalie said...

I would imagine that not a ton of juvenile cases go to trial anyway since so many juveniles are offered diversion type programs especially for their first offense.

S said...

Absolutely true. It's only a very few juveniles who have any real incentive to assert the jury trial right as most juveniles prior to the change weren't asserting rights to bench trials anyway. Just as in adult world, most cases end without trials.

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