As we wait, maybe with a little trepidation, for the ruling in the Heller case, the Supreme Court’s first look in recent decades at the Second Amendment, it’s worth remembering why our sometimes pesky Bill of Rights, with its protections for individual gun owners (well, that’s my prediction, anyway!), pornographers, and criminals, is a good thing.
In the UK, the House of Lords recently banned the use of anonymous evidence against a defendant accused of murder. Here in the US, we’ve had a recent string of similar decisions from the Supreme Court emphasizing the right of the criminal defendant to confront his accusers.
The difference? Here, the Court was interpreting the Sixth Amendment right of a defendant “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” So when the Court rules, its rulings are more or less the final word. In Great Britain, the government immediately announced that it would introduce a bill in Parliament to reverse the decision.
Maybe in the (imaginary?) golden years of educated and virtuous citizens, we could count on purely democratic institutions to protect the rights of accused murderers. But in our tough-on-crime, mass media-saturated, relatively uneducated society, I say thank goodness for the Bill of Rights, even if we sometimes aren’t happy with what it requires!