I had jury duty today. It starts with paperwork, and then an orientation about what a jury is, and why it’s important. The orientation is a video, narrated by Buff Mandible of ABC News, whose grandiose voice is perfect at pointing out that the Constitution is the foundation of our democracy, that Thomas Jefferson thought habeas corpus and a trial by jury were essential. Jefferson was, by all accounts, a smart fellow, but I might add that the idea of habeas corpus goes back to the Magna Carta in the 12th century.
A quick poke around the internet shows Jefferson tossing off letters hither and yon about it, and lo and behold, in the Bill of Rights we have this:
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 defense.
Sounds good, except for the fact that the US lost that right up last year:
With the approval of Congress and no outcry from corporate media, the Military Commissions Act (MCA) signed by Bush on October 17, 2006, ushered in military commission law for US citizens and non-citizens alike. While media, including a lead editorial in the New York Times October 19, have given false comfort that we, as American citizens, will not be the victims of the draconian measures legalized by this Act—such as military roundups and life-long detention with no rights or constitutional protections—Robert Parry points to text in the MCA that allows for the institution of a military alternative to the constitutional justice system for “any person” regardless of American citizenship. The MCA effectively does away with habeas corpus rights for “any person” arbitrarily deemed to be an “enemy of the state.” The judgment on who is deemed an “enemy combatant” is solely at the discretion of President Bush.
I thought about dropping old Buff Mandible a line and suggesting he update the video. But something tells me adding that BIG FREAKING DISCLAIMER about martial law wouldn’t inspire very many people to do their civic duty.