Amdt6.3.3.1 Right to a Local Jury: Historical Background

Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Article III, § 2 requires that federal criminal cases be tried by jury in the state and district in which the offense was committed,1 but much criticism arose over the absence of any guarantee that the jury be drawn from the vicinage or neighborhood of the crime.2 Madison’s efforts to write into the Bill of Rights an express vicinage provision were rebuffed by the Senate, and the present language was adopted as a compromise.3 The provisions limit the Federal Government only.4

Footnotes

  1.  Jump to essay-1The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crime shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by law have directed.
  2.  Jump to essay-2Vicinage means neighborhood, and vicinage of the jury means jury of the neighborhood or, in medieval England, jury of the County. 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England *350-351 (T. Cooley, 4th ed. 1899). See 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States 1775–85 (1833).
  3.  Jump to essay-3The controversy is conveniently summarized in Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 92–96 (1970).
  4.  Jump to essay-4Nashville, C. & St. L. R.R. v. Alabama, 128 U.S. 96 (1888).