by Michael Lowrey
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.
— Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
So misdemeanor domestic abuse charges were dismissed against Panthers defense end Greg Hardy yesterday. It seems likely that Hardy reached a settlement with his ex-girlfriend to make the charges go away. Whether that ends the matter as far as the NFL is concerned is a different matter — the league is still reviewing the matter and could still suspend Hardy despite his being cleared.
And yes, it’s a huge media circus and the NFL hates bad press. One thing that isn’t helping Hardy is how North Carolina courts are set up. Misdemeanors are tried in front of a District Court judge. One of the basic liberties that the Bill of Rights serves to protects is the right to a jury trial and this is exactly what Greg Hardy didn’t get in District Court. North Carolina makes up for this basic shortcoming by allowing “appeals” to Superior Court. These though aren’t appeals in the typical sense of the word — they are new jury trials with what happened in District Court whipped out.
Unfortunately, most TV sports and news talking heads don’t get that arrangement and are making it sound as if Hardy’s conviction was somehow overturned on a technicality by an appeals court. Nope. The Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial isn’t a technicality — and Hardy shouldn’t be punished by the NFL based upon the now non-existent results of a non-jury trial. To do so would create a bizarre system of justice indeed.
Want to make the argument that Hardy did something bad to Nicole Holder and deserves to be punished? Go right ahead — just please don’t include any reference to a conviction, because as of now, there is no such thing.