Pro -- Constitutional Amendment A
Laws are meant to promote harmony in society. When laws make sense,
they do promote harmony.
Sometimes, though, a law or its application strikes a sour note. When
someone is unjustly punished by our justice system, it does more damage
than a thousand appropriate convictions and punishments can repair.
Legislators try to do good things when they make laws. Occasionally,
however, even well-intended laws cause disasters for peaceful, honest
people: an elderly man convicted of "cruelty to animals" after using his
cane in defense against an attacking dog; parents convicted of "child
pornography" after taking family photos of their toddler in the tub; a
lady convicted under the "open container" law after collecting empty
beer cans along the road to use in making novelty hats.
Verdicts like these create hardship, discord, and cynicism. Not
harmony. Not justice.
For justice to be served, an accused person must be allowed to
present a complete defense. If he's barred from arguing that applying
the letter of the law will not make common sense, an unjust verdict can
easily result. Such arguments are presently denied to accused persons.
Amendment A's critics have been implying South Dakota's citizen
jurors and judges aren't bright enough to tell a good explanation from a
bad one, and don't have enough common sense to deliver justice.
Interestingly, these arrogant, unfounded slurs have come almost entirely
True, asking the legislature to improve a faulty law is an
option--but only for those with time and money to burn. It's not much
help to someone already being wrongly prosecuted. "A" will provide a
common-sense remedy for those who need it most, when and where it
In sum, Amendment A will reinforce our right as Americans to a fair
trial. If ever accused of breaking a law that we feel is flawed, or
wrongly applied, or carries too harsh a punishment, we should be able to
say so in court. It just makes common sense.
Submitted by: Bob Newland, HC 89 Box 184-A, Hermosa, SD 57744. Bob
Newland is a freelance writer, publisher, and photographer. Newland
directed the petition drive which put Amendment A on the ballot.