Comment: Public Trial Guarantee

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Public Trial Guarantee

Purpose and History:

"The Public Trial serves several basic purposes. First, a public trial guarantees that the defendant will not be treated unfairly by the judge or other officials. Throughout European history, there is a long trail of judicial abuses in private trials. A judge could throw someone in prison who was completely innocent and the defendant would have no way to save himself. Judges could make up false charges, refuse to allow the accused to defend himself or exact enormous sentences that have no relation to the severity of the alleged crime, if trials were held in private.

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black put it this way. Public trials are:

"Whatever other benefits the guarantee to an accused that his trial be conducted in public may confer upon our society, the guarantee has always been recognized as a safeguard against any attempt to employ our courts as instruments of persecution."

Public trials serve to protect the accused from judicial tyranny, but also serve several public interests. They tend to cause witnesses to come forth with relevant information because the witness hears about the proceedings. They also tend to pressure people to tell the truth because anyone who hears of the proceedings and knows they are lying might come forward and tell the truth.

The Public Trial also serves to increase the public's trust in the judicial and legal system because they can see plainly what is happening in the courtroom. If the public likes what it sees, it will have confidence in the system. If the public doesn't like what it sees, it will elect new officials to replace the old ones and change the laws. The Public Trial also serves to satisfy the public's desire for justice when it sees a criminal receive a just punishment."