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Sixth Amendment: Speedy Trial by an Impartial Jury (1791)

Defendants have the right to a quick trial by a jury of people who are not involved with the case, and who are not biased against them. Further, the trial must take place in the area where the alleged crime was committed. These protections are part of due process rights protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Jury trials have their roots in ancient republics. The Founders believed that jury trials were a check on tyrannical government, and a foundation of justice. They were outraged when the British Crown did not provide them during the colonial era. The Declaration of Independence charges the King with depriving the colonists of their right to a trial by jury, and of taking defendants away to England to be tried by a judge in admiralty courts: “For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury; for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses…”

The Founders also believed that both serving on a jury and testifying in court were essential responsibilities of citizenship. Thomas Jefferson believed that serving on a jury was more important than voting.