U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Can a Right be Less Than the Sum of Its Parts?: How the Conflation of Compulsory Process and Due Process Guarantees Diminishes Criminal Defendants' Rights

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2011 Pages: 1501-1529
Stacey Kime
Date Published
29 pages
This article examines the United States Supreme Courts' interpretation of the sixth amendment's compulsory process clause.
Both the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution contain due process clauses that guarantee a criminal defendant the right to trial that conforms to the doctrine of fundamental fairness. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court replaced the fundament fairness doctrine of the 5th amendment with a new interpretation of the compulsory process clause of the 6th amendment (Washington vs. Texas). This article argues that the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 6th amendment clause is incorrect and that it in fact undermines the basic framework of the clause which is to protect a criminal defendant's constitutional rights. The first part of the article contains an overview of an individual's right to present defense evidence, and identifies how this right came about in due process and compulsory process. The section also highlights how the Supreme Court's reinterpretation of the compulsory process clause in the 6th amendment and lack of guidance to lower courts on how to analyze violations of the clause has caused confusion among the lower courts. The next section of the article argues that the Supreme Court's interpretation in Washington and subsequent decisions of other courts based on this ruling are in fact based on an incorrect understanding of the procedural framework that underlies a criminal defendant's constitutional rights. The final section of the article presents a framework for resolving many of the inconsistencies resulting from the Court's ruling in Washington.