Right to Counsel Article
According to Zalman (2011) from its origin in the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century English common law did not permit attorneys in jury trials. Before, criminal defendants had to represent themselves in English criminal trials, except in major treason trails in 1695, which defendants had the right to legal representation. Although lawyers could give advice to defendants, they were forbidden to speak in the trial. In 1836 English defendants gain the right to be represented by paid lawyers in felony trials. Colonial America embrace the idea of using an attorney in criminal trials. So the federal Bill of Rights and most states’ bill of rights guaranteed right ...view middle of the document...
Powell v. Alabama, also known as the Scottsboro Case, was a milestone Supreme Court opinion of 1932 that opened the gate for right to counsel. The case of 1931 involved nine African American teenagers getting arrested in Alabama for a fist fight with several White teenagers on a train after they were falsely accused of rape by two White female passengers. In a time in history when the tension of racism was high these young men were tried three times in southern Scottsboro, Alabama and each time sentenced to death. The Supreme Court seen this case twice and finally decided on the issue of the defendants due process rights to counsel had been violated.
The state argued that they did give the defendants counsel, and it did not violate their due process rights. After reading the transcript the Supreme court disagreed. Justice Southerland believed that the defendants were young, poor, in an unfamiliar city, and were not asked if they had access to legal representation. They were not given enough time to contact their families to arrange for counsel. It was also discovered in the transcript that none of the lawyers appointed to the case were willing to represent a specific defendant. The Supreme Court opinion of 1932 incorporated criminal procedure rights in the Bill of Rights, which included the guarantee of the assistance to counsel. The Scottsboro Case decision was based on facts and circumstances of the case, this did not mean that states had to appoint counsel for every indigent defendant for criminal trials. As a Due Process Clause precedent, Powell v. Alabama made it a requirement that defendants have a right to counsel in cases in which "special circumstances" exist (Zalman, 2011, p. 297).
The Supreme Court opinion of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) finally set the tone for indigents having the right to counsel. Gideon was charged with breaking into a pool hall in the state of Florida. Appearing before the judge without money or representation, the defendant ask for legal representation by the state. He was denied counsel on the grounds that the state of Florida could only appoint counsel in cases of a capital offense. He told the court that he was entitled to a right to counsel under laws set by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Possessing only an eight grade education Gideon was forced to represent himself. He conducted his defense as well as he could. He made an opening statement, cross-examined witnesses, called witnesses of his own, he did not testify, and made closing arguments portraying his innocence. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to a prison term of five years (The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College, 2013).
After Gideon's petition for a new trial because he believed his Constitutional rights were violated, was denied in the Florida Supreme Court he appealed to the United States Supreme Court. In a prior Supreme Court opinion of Betts v. Brady (1942) held that it was not a violation...