Monday, March 03, 2008

Things we take for granted: Mexico may transition to public trials

There are Constitutional guarantees we take for granted in this country - like the right to a public trial and the right to have evidence of alleged crimes produced publicly in court - that make an enormous difference in improving the integrity of the American justice system. As evidence, perhaps the most important proposed reform for the notoriously corrupt judiciary in Mexico is to shift, for the first time, to open courts and public trials, reports the Beyond the Border blog:
Federal legislators today approved — again — constitutional reforms that could radically change Mexico's criminal justice system by making public, oral trials a nationwide standard within eight years in place of the current closed-door norm.
Whether it's secret wiretaps at the federal level, the trend away from trials and toward plea bargains, concealing documents related to snitches, the shift away from civil courts to arbitration, or exercising search warrants without immediately revealing why (as the Texas Legislature approved last year, concealing information from the public, but inexplicably not the alleged criminal, up to 60 days), today in the US we face a general nickel and diming trend away from judicial decisions made publicly in open courts.

When we hear arguments for greater secrecy in the judiciary, proponents can always offer a slew of good reasons why whatever specific bit of information they're worried about should be concealed, usually prefaced with the hypothetical, "What if ..." . Perhaps then we wouldn't be so quick to take the idea of open courts for granted if we asked more often, "What if courts were closed?" For a definitive answer, Texans need only look south.


Anonymous said...

You refer to a "trend toward plea bargains". With 98% of guilt decided by a plea, it seems to me to be a dond deal rather than a "trend".

I'd like to see a trend toward more real trials with real evidence and the right to question one's accuser.

Anonymous said...

god it great to see something other than tyc for a change.

Anonymous said...

The Rev. from Tulia chiming in:

If simply by fiat of the POTUS, I should be declared an enemy non-combatant, I (or you or anybody else) would have none of the rights you enumerate here. What was it Martin Niemoller said, "They came for the trade unionists [etc.] and I wasn't a trade unionist [etc.] and I didn't speak up . . ."?