History and Development of the Sixth Amendment

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  • Topic: Gideon v. Wainwright, Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Betts v. Brady
  • Pages : 3 (1046 words )
  • Download(s) : 455
  • Published : February 8, 2011
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Muthu S. Weerasinghe
Constitutional Law LS 305 – 01
Unit 7 Essay

The Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights contains seven clauses that protect the rights of the accused. The amendment assures the accused that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” (U.S. Const. Amend. 6) One of the most important parts of this amendment is the right to counsel. The right to counsel guarantees the accused is provided with an attorney who is both competent and well – versed in the law. In this day and age, even the defendants that cannot afford counsel are provided with public defenders. The history of the Sixth Amendment can be traced back to English law, where defendants did not have a right to hire counsel to defend themselves, unless the circumstances were extraordinary. Subsequent to the 1688 Glorious Revolution (in England), English Parliament allowed only those accused of treason to be represented by counsel at proceedings. It wasn’t until 1836, when the Prisoner’s Counsel Act was passed, that the right to counsel was withheld from defendants. ("Right to counsel," 2008) Once the colonies in America were established, most of the American law remained rooted in English law and continued the practice of denying counsel to defendants, although the laws varied depending on the colony. Close to the end of the Revolutionary war in America, the right to represent and the right to counsel was widely regarded as a...
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