Stanford Law Professor Jeffrey L. Fisher had a particularly compelling argument yesterday in the New York Times against the assertion that if applying federal constitutional rights costs too much than the right should not apply. This efficiency versus rights argument is a commonly employed by prosecutors offices across the country. And it is incredibly false.
Tax payers spend an incredible amount of money when government erroneously convicts people. This already happens all too often. So much in fact that an organization called The Innocence Project was formed to contest bogus convictions and help exonerees obtain compensation from the state.
If we remove the constitutional safeguards that prevent erroneous convictions, such as the right of confrontation and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the criminal justice system will be more efficient; but we will pay a huge price for it, both in tax dollars and justice. As Justice Scalia once said about the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial: “It has never been efficient; but it has always been free.”