When defendant John Lilburn successfully argued that immemorial usage and British common law entitled him to a trial in open court, he helped secure our rights under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
When he asked for a chamber pot and relieved himself after the judge denied a recess, he became the hero of a presentation on the Constitution by Robert J. McWhirter, senior attorney with the Maricopa Legal Defender's Office and former Assistant Federal Public Defender.
McWhirter and Andy Hessick, a visiting professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, will speak on the U.S. Constitution as part of a celebration of the 220th Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution from 2-5 p.m. on Constitution Day, Sept. 17. The event will be held at the Great Hall.
Hessick will speak at 2 p.m. on "The Constitution in Action," outlining several Constitutional cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term.
McWhirter's presentation, "How the Constitution Guarantees You a Trial, a Lawyer and a Chamber Pot! A Multimedia History of the 6th Amendment," will begin at 3:30 p.m.
The event, co-sponsored by University Libraries and the Ross-Blakley Law Library at the College of Law, is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.
The cases Hessick will discuss include a case on child pornography, a Texas case in which the president directed the state to reconsider a Mexican national's habeas petition and the state refused, and another on the dormant commerce clause, which deals with state and national regulation of interstate commerce.
Hessick also will discuss the case that struck down all gun laws in Washington, D.C., which the court hasn't yet accepted, but probably will.
McWhirter said his interactive presentation is one of several he is writing on each of the Constitutional amendments as part of an upcoming book.
"The Sixth Amendment is very broad," McWhirter said. "I cover the confrontation clause, the right to a lawyer and the reasonable doubt standards. I go back to the European trial by ordeal."
McWhirter joked that, in addition to legal gatherings, he has given his presentations at the occasional bat mitzvah and wedding.
"It's dynamic," he said.
McWhirter, a certified specialist in criminal law with the State Bar of Arizona, defends death penalty and other serious felonies. He received his J.D. from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, clerked for then-Vice Chief Justice Stanley G. Feldman of the Arizona Supreme Court, and was an assistant federal public defender from 1989 to 2007, representing Native Americans and other clients in a broad range of federal cases, including homicide, sexual abuse and bank robbery.
Hessick, who received his J.D. from Yale Law School, served as a law clerk for Judge Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Judge Reena Raggi of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After spending a year as a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General for the United States, working on a number of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hessick joined Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, D.C.
He confessed that his talk will be informative but not funny, an area he leaves to McWhirter.
"I'm totally not funny," Hessick said. "Don't be fooled by the dormant commerce clause. It may be boring, but is really important when it comes to the Court's constitutional docket."