The Law: Ervin's Speedup Legacy

The Sixth Amendment is most explicit: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy ... trial." Defense lawyers and hard-nosed cops alike support the principle, in theory at least. The innocent get freed faster, the guilty get put away faster, and the community has a better sense of the quid pro quo of punishment for crime.

Nonetheless, in recent years the criminal justice system had fallen far behind. Recently Congress, led by Senator Sam Ervin, passed a little-noticed bill aimed at shortening the delay in federal courts. The new law, signed by President Ford last week, provides...

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