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South Carolina Supreme Court upholds convict's rights

Everyone probably knows that criminal suspects are entitled to a fair trial. But, it may not always be apparent what the words "fair trial" mean. Numerous rules and safeguards exist in order to protect suspects' rights, such as the right to criminal defense counsel and the right to remain silent. These safeguards are necessary because when a crime is committed, authorities often feel pressure to find the wrongdoers and hold them responsible as soon as possible. It is possible that such pressure could unduly influence law enforcement officials into taking action more out of a desire to hold someone accountable than relying on facts and evidence.

Also, simply being accused of a crime can carry a stigma, and many people are willing to condemn a person without being aware of all the facts. Before the government goes to the extreme measure of taking away a person's freedom, the effort needs to be made to determine that the person in custody is the actual offender.

It is therefore important that authorities strictly follow certain procedures when pursing a criminal conviction. The South Carolina Supreme Court, for example, recently overturned a death sentence for a man because the suspect had not been allowed to testify at his own criminal trial. The court also ordered a retrial of the murder charge for which he had been convicted.

Criminal suspects have the right to testify on their own behalf should they so choose. This right, however, as with many other rights, can be waived, or given up. Before a person who is facing criminal charges waives any right, it is important that they get the right information to understand what exactly it is that they are doing and what kind of consequences may result.

Source: MidlandsConnect.com, "SC Supreme Court overturns death sentence," Feb. 13, 2013

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