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Sen. Paul Speaks in Defense of Trial by Jury for American Citizens


Location: Washington, DC

This evening, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to voice his support for an Amendment No. 3018 to the National Defense Authorization Act sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The amendment would protect the rights prescribed to Americans in the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution with regard to indefinite detention and the right to a trial by jury. A vote on this amendment is scheduled to occur later this evening.

Below is video and transcript of his floor speech this evening:


I rise in support of the Feinstein-Lee amendment to prevent the indefinite detention of American citizens without a trial by jury.

In the year 1215, the English barons gathered on the plain at Runnymede. They gathered to protest against King John. They gathered for their rights as free men and they gathered for the right to trial by jury. We've had it enshrined in both English law and American law for 800 years. It seems a shame to scrap it now.

People say, but these terrorists are horrible people. Yes, they're horrible people, but every day and every night if our country horrible people are accused of crimes and they are taken to court. They have an attorney on their side. They have a trial. People whom we despise - people who murder and rape are given trials by juries. We can try and we can prosecute terrorists. People say 'but they're terrorists.' Well, the thing is you're an American citizen and you are accused of terrorism. Who's going to determine who is a terrorist and who is not a terrorist? They don't walk around with a badge. They don't walk around with a card that says 'I'm from al-Qaida.' They will be accused of a crime and there will be facts. Someone must judge the facts. That's what a jury does.

To give up on this because we're afraid of terrorists is to give in to the terrorists. If we give up our rights, if we relinquish our rights, haven't the terrorists then won?

Jefferson said that the right to trial by jury was the anchor. It was the anchor by which we protect the principles of the Constitution. Senator Lafollette, a Senator from Wisconsin, said that if we give up these rights, if we are unable to protect these rights, that ultimately the bill of rights loses its value. He said let no man think that we can deny civil liberties to others and retain it for ourselves. When zealous agents of the government arrest suspected radicals without warrant, hold them without trial, deny them access to counsel and admission of bail, we have shorn the Bill of Rights of its sanctity.

I would ask today of my colleagues that we have a chance to replace fear with confidence, confidence that no terrorist will ever conquer us if we remain steadfast to our principles, the principles of our founders.

We have nothing to fear except our own unwillingness to protect our rights. If we relinquish our right to the trial by jury, we will have given up so much. Don't let those who would instill fear let you give up the both basic of rights, a right that prevents of oppression of government and evolution or devolution into despotism. I hope my colleagues will today vote to uphold an 800-year-old tradition, a tradition that is enshrined in the body of our Constitution, a tradition that is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, and a tradition that is in every constitution of all 50 states.

Are we to give that up because we're fearful? We can and have convicted terrorists. We're not talking about terrorists from overseas. We're not talking about a battlefield somewhere else. We're talking about American citizens accused in our country.

Why should you be wary? The government has descriptions of who might be a terrorist. If you have seven days of food in your basement, you might be a terrorist. If you have weatherized ammunition, you might be a terrorist. This is what your government describes as things you should report. Know your neighbor to report your neighbor. If you have weatherized ammunition, multiple guns, food in your basement, if you like to pay by cash, if these are the characteristics for which we might be accused of terrorism, would you not at the very least still want to retain your right as an American citizen to a right to a trial by jury of your peers?

I ask that we step up today and support an ancient tradition, and I worry about a country that would let a tradition like the right to trial by jury go so easily. Thank you, Mr. President.

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