by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
I learned only yesterday that North Carolinians will be voting on an amendment to the state constitution this November. It would “provide that a person accused of any criminal offense in Superior Court for which the state is not seeking a sentence of death may waive the right to trial by jury and instead be tried by a judge.”
The measure went on the ballot with overwhelming support from both houses. It is claimed it would help unclog some backlog in the criminal justice system. Becki Gray of the JLF challenged this stance back in April, and asked, “Must we sacrifice liberty for efficiency?” (See p. 27.)
I need to study this more, but today I am inclined to be opposed on no more than an abiding faith in the wisdom of our founders and a preference that amendments be made for only serious matters, like when an entire population wakes up to the fact that people are people, too. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to trial by jury. But then, having the ability to waive that right for oneself does not abridge the right.
But it may for the low-educated. If I were progressive enough to encourage laws that shape society instead of simply forbidding that which is unfair or harmful to others, I would offer the following: The amendment could lead to the incarceration of a disproportionate number of stupid people. According to adage, it is the stupid (speaking intellectually and not morally) lawbreakers who get caught. It is the stupid who will also be more likely to submit to the whims of an impartial judge. But then another adage describes the current process as being tried by twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty.