By: Antone White
The U.S Constitution body of rules and principles endows protections and enforcements of private rights( as to life, liberty and property). The constitution body of rules reposes ultimate power in the people, by the people and for the people of the United States to preserve and maintain a liberty thesis of “Freedom, Justice and Equality”.
The genius of the “Constitution Protection” was established to safeguard its democracy against the will and tyrannical effect of a government to imprison and exercise complete control over its citizens; stemming from the oppression of England’s Star Chamber. The protection ordains that an individual’s life, liberty or property can only be stripped away by due process of law; from results in either a plea of guilt (by the individual) or by a jury of its peers upon proof of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
The foundational role of due process is that all citizens have entitlement to a presumption of innocence! Otherwise, a person may not be convicted of a crime unless the government proves them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; without any burden placed on the accused to prove its innocence. Due process grounds citizens’ the right to a trail by jury. Thereby, according to an underlying provision in the “Due Process Clause” of the U.S Constitution, “ no courts, nor any officer of law may presume a person guilty of a crime enough to demand sanctions ( as to life liberty, or property).
However, congress legislated a policy imputed by the United States Sentencing Commission in 1984; the Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines. Spanning three decades, almost four, these guidelines have eroded the foundational tenants of America’s Democracy bringing forth a Jim Crow climate that systematically demoralizes criminal defendants “Constitutional Protection”, at sentencing.
At sentencing, the courts are authorized to consider “relevant conduct” for the purpose of calculating the sentencing guidelines, which may include uncharted crimes that otherwise are inadmissible at trial.Even more, the courts are permitted to extract offenses from acquitted and dismissed charges which consequently nullify principles of the 5th Amendment of the constitution that decrees ..” no person shall be held to answer for an infamous crime, unless on the presentment of an indictment of a Grand Jury, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.
In a constitutional system that relies upon the jury to stand as a great bulwark and neutral arbiter between criminal defendants and government bent on depriving them of their civic duty; hereof, an axiom adhered by Judge Millet of DC Circuit Court of Appeal:
“Allowing courts at sentencing to materially increase the length of imprisonment based on conduct for which the jury acquitted the defendant guts the role of the jury in preserving individual liberty, and preventing oppression by the government”.
The unfairness perpetuated by the use of uncharged, dismissed, and acquitted conduct to heighten criminal defendants sentences in federal court are uniquely malevolent. As well as a dubious infringement of individuals rights to due process and trial by jury.
Imagine the abhorrent act of a man or woman’s sentence being double, triple or virtually scaled to a lifetime of imprisonment for crimes or otherwise conducts for which they were neither charged nor convicted. One wonders what the reaction of the jury would be if the jurors were told at outset:
“If you convict the defendant on one charge, but deadlock or acquit them on the other count, that the court may utilize a different standard of proof and consequently sentence the defendant as though he was convicted of both “
Would this resonate with the jury as being fair and worthwhile of their time and effort while still respecting the admiration for our system of justice? I sincerely doubt it!
For the constitution to have meaning it must not be pure words we recite but also the words we live by as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior emphasize from Birmingham jail or April 16, 1963.
“An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law”
*For more information on the Star Chamber, read article “Star Chamber: How Secret Courts Fuels Mass Incarceration”