If there was a conflict between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victim, whose rights should be more important, why ??If there was a conflict between the rights of the accused and...
If there was a conflict between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victim, whose rights should be more important, why ??
I suppose that you will have others weigh on in this topic. I think that the paradigm you propose has been one that has been advocated by zealots of both sides of the equation. The construction of justice as an "either or" proposition emboldens each side to make their own case. I think that the erection of distinctions which make the rights of the accused and "everyone else's rights" as two separate entities might be more of a false analogy than anything else. It is not an "us" or "them" mentality when it comes to the preservation of rights. Rights are an element that cannot be vitiated in any form. No one wins when rights are taken from some one or a group of individuals. When exceptions are made to detract from one conception of rights, then the same can be made to take from anyone's rights and the entire concept is thrown into jeopardy. The framers constructed a system of rights to be concepts that possess moral imperatives. Their preservation in a pristine, non- violated form is sacred to the Constitution. Rights were not constructed as elements of calculations, such as "90% of the public having rights is fine, so that a 10% loss will not be that bad." The framers saw the violation of rights under British rule as something that cannot be repeated in any form. This would be why they constructed a system where the presence of rights for all citizens is an absolute element, something that cannot be or taken away in any form.
I think that you can make an argument either way, so I'll give what I think is the harder argument. I'll say you have to choose to give more attention to the rights of the accused.
The reason I say this is because the accused has more at stake in a trial. If the trial is for murder, for example, the accused person could be sent to prison for life or even executed. The stakes for this person are much higher than for the family of the victim. The victim's family will not get their loved one back no matter what and so they will not be as affected by the outcome as will the accused.
Our system is fully capable of making mistakes and convicting people wrongly. Since this can happen, and since the consequences are so high, you can argue that we must err in favor of the rights of the accused.
I agree with #3 in that we have not designed a system where this decision needs to be made, where we can only have rights of the victim as a priority or rights of the accused. I believe in most cases we try pretty clearly to have both. In cases where injustice for the victims or accused take place, we tend to hear about them the most, and then sometimes feel as though the entire legal system is somehow stacked against one or the other.
If I had to choose between the two, I'd say victims' rights should be strengthened, in that we sometimes do a poor job with the security of witnesses and victims' families. I would also say that an accused person's name should not be released to the public until they are found guilty, otherwise the mere accusation in the press can destroy a person's life.
I would like to argue that the rights of the accused are more important. I want to point out that there is a difference between an accused person and a criminal who has been found guilty of a crime. In this country, a person is presumed innocent until found guilty. That is the situation for an accused person. It is very easy to assume that someone who has been arrested and accused of a crime is guilty of that crime. That is why the founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution insisted on a Bill of Rights and why the Bill of Rights is so concerned with the rights of the accused (see the 5th and 6th Amendments).
The rights of the accused must be protected--perhaps not all rights, but certainly the right to a fair and timely trial. This does not discount the rights of the victim, but it does set a priority IF one has to be made. We've seen too many cases of all kinds where the accused was innocent and the victim was guilty. However, once the accused has become the guilty, the victims deserve to have every right protected against the perpetrator. In an ideal world, all would be equal and adequate; in the real world, we may have to choose, unfortunately.