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Attorney James Bell “Sounds Off” on Belfast and the Confrontation Clause


BGD attorney James J. Bell recently discussed “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland and the implications of the U.S. Constitution’s confrontation clause in cases similar to that of Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein (the political arm of the IRA.)  Bell shares his personal story in connection with “The Troubles” and his legal analysis of the 6th Amendment in the first edition of his new Indiana Lawyer column “Bell’s Sound Off: An Off Beat Sort of Legal Commentary.”

In his column, Bell recounts the story of a stray bullet piercing his parents’ apartment in Belfast from a firefight between British troops and the Irish Republican Army. Following the incident, his parents are determined to escape the violence. They evacuated to Canada in 1972 where Bell was born and they subsequently moved to Alabama where he was raised.

The Case of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

Shifting his focus to legal matters, Bell examines the confrontation clause of the U.S. Constitution in relation to the case of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. He was arrested in Ireland for the death of Jean McConville, an accused informant for the British, on April 30, 2014.

It was believed that Adams had ordered her capture and death; the suspicion was based primarily on an archived tape by the late Brenden Hughes. Although Hughes was in a unique position to serve as an accurate source on Adams’ actions and clearly described the crime, Hughes was deceased at the time of Adams’ arrest; therefore he was unable to testify and give the defense counsel to confront him regarding his testimony.

Bell makes it clear how such a tape would be dealt with in U.S. court by citing the confrontation clause of the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court decision Crawford v. Washington. According to the 6th Amendment, any tape recorded statement would be quickly dismissed as hearsay; Crawford established this principle in case-law by clearly prescribing confrontation as the only way to fulfill constitutional guidelines. In conclusion, Bell notes that Adams was released in Ireland after four days and that no charges were pressed.

Read “Belfast, 1972, The Troubles and the Confrontation Clause” in its entirety on the Indiana Lawyer website.

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