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Verification of Facts in Criminal Proceedings

Article 13 (1790)

In criminal prosecutions, the verification of facts in the vicinity where they happen, is one of the greatest securities of the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.

Precedents, Following Law, and Quotations

Thomas Starkie, A Practical Treatise on the Law of Evidence and Digest of Proofs in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Boston: Wells and Lilly, 1826:

“The investigation of truth, the art of ascertaining that which is unknown from that which is known, has occupied the attention, and constituted the pleasure as well as the business of reflecting part of mankind in every civilized age and country. But inquiries of this nature are nowhere more essential to the great temporal interests of society than where they are applied to the purposes of judicial investigation in matters of fact. Their importance is obviously commensurate with the interests of justice and of right; the best and wisest laws are useless until the materials be provided upon which they can safely be exercised; in other words, the administration of a law assumes the truth of the facts or predicament to which it is applied.”


United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 709 (1973):

“We have elected to employ an adversary system of criminal justice in which the parties contest all issues before a court of law. The need to develop all relevant facts in the adversary system is both fundamental and comprehensive. The ends of criminal justice would be defeated if judgments were to be founded on a partial or speculative presentation of the facts. The very integrity of the judicial system and public confidence in the system depend on full disclosure of all the facts, within the framework of the rules of evidence. To ensure that justice is done, it is imperative to the function of courts that compulsory process be available for the production of evidence needed either by the prosecution or by the defense.”


Regarding the venue provision

Opinion of the Justices to the Senate, 372 Mass. 883, (1977):

“Selection of the general term ‘vicinity’ rather than the more precise, technical term “county” by the drafters of art. 13, men learned in the law, manifests an intention that a narrow, technical interpretation of the word is to be avoided. . . This flexibility was recognized and utilized prior to the adoption of art. 13, both in England and in Massachusetts and is a part of our common law.”


”Notes – Criminal Venue in the Federal Courts: The Obstruction of Justice Puzzle”, 82 Mich. L. Rev. 90, 106 (1983):

An emphasis on factfinding was also the hallmark of the early state constitutional venue provisions. At the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, four of the thirteen state constitutions contained venue provisions. . . . The Massachusetts  and Maryland provisions express the same venue policy that facts should be tried where the relevant evidence would be readily accessible, that is, where the facts ‘happened.’ The federal constitutional venue provisions were promulgated in this legal-historical context. Though these provisions were undoubtedly seen as having a number of virtues,  the preeminent concern, and the one most relevant today, was facilitating factfinding by holding trial near where the relevant evidence could be found. Though the constitutional district-of-the-crime test is phrased as a positive command, the Framers must have been aware that problems would arise if it were applied too literally,  even if they could not have imagined the extent to which those problems would grow. . . . This history suggests that, in venue questions, the constitutional test should not be employed rigidly, but rather in the manner necessary to facilitate factfinding.”

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