January 26, 2013
While the Second Amendment has been hogging the spotlight of late, the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States deserves consideration in the wake of a local homicide case.
Jamauhle Brown, 32, is facing charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, committing a felony in furtherance of street gang activity and other offenses related to the 2010 death of Michael E. Smith, of Sedalia. During a pre-trial conference Tuesday, Brown ripped off an expletive-filled rant after his public defender, Kathleen Brown, requested a continuance for his trial, which had been scheduled for March 5. Regardless of the defendant’s guilt or innocence on the charges he faces, we understand his frustration with the process.
As the Democrat’s Emily Jarrett reported, “This marks the third time the trial has been pushed back and, according to Pettis County Prosecutor Jeff Mittelhauser, comes two years after Brown was indicted.”
The Sixth Amendment states: “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 defense.”
And while it is argued that the amendment helps protect those who have been accused but not convicted of crimes, the Missouri Bar views it as a protection for the general public, as well.
According to the bar’s Civics Library (members.mobar.org/civics/SpeedyTrial.htm): “(I)t can easily be seen that this provision likewise is to the benefit of society. Persons in jail have to be supported at considerable public expense. In many cases, their families must then rely on public assistance while a breadwinner is in jail. It is clearly in the public’s best interest to provide speedy trials, so that the accused can either be convicted and begin to serve out his sentence, or be acquitted and set free.”
State public defender director Cat Kelly told the Associated Press last month that “public defender offices in 20 judicial circuits around the state had been under a limited ability to accept new clients because of the caseload limits,” AP wrote. Still, two years should be enough time to prepare such a case.
Jamauhle Brown was not alone in his frustration. Circuit Court Judge Robert Koffman said, “Even Charles Manson didn’t take two years to get to a trial.”
What matters most is justice. And Brown, the family of Michael Smith and the Sedalia community in general deserve proper resolution of this case; that said, more than enough time has passed since the crimes in question occurred. The public defender needs to make this case a priority and let justice be served.