LS305 Constitutional Law
Unit 7 Assignment
May 7, 2012
The roots for the right to council go back quite a ways. This right to counsel for the defendant pertains to those who cannot afford to pay fees for a private lawyer. Let’s take a trip back down memory lane as these rights can be found more than a century ago. The Webb v. Baird decision in 1853, however, was the exception rather than the rule in the states. In Webb v. Baird, the Indiana Supreme Court recognized a right to an attorney at public expense for an indigent person accused of crime, grounded in "the principles of a civilized society," not in constitutional or statutory law (Ind. 1853). Well down the road, most states relied only on the pro bono or volunteer efforts of lawyers to provide defense for poor people accused of sometimes the most serious crimes. While some private programs for legal aide were actively providing counsel to needy people, such services did not exist outside of the larger cities. "It is not to be thought of in a civilized community for a moment that any citizen put in jeopardy of life or liberty should be debarred of counsel because he is too poor to employ such aid," the Indiana court wrote. "No court could be expected to respect itself to sit and hear such a trial. The defense of the poor in such cases is a duty which will at once be conceded as essential to the accused, to the court and to the public" (Ind. 1853). The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence" ("The 6th amendment,"). There are seven protections provided from the Sixth Amendment. They are the right to a speedy trial, the right to a public trial, the right to be judged by an impartial jury, the right to be notified of the nature and circumstances of the alleged crime, the right to confront witnesses who will testify against the accused,...
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