University of Phoenix
October 17, 2011
Right to Counsel
The right to counsel is a fundamental right in the United States criminal justice system. As the country has matured, the concept has evolved and expanded significantly to promote due process and confidence in the entire system. The concept has evolved to the point that most successful attorneys elect to use private counsel when they themselves are the subject of criminal proceedings. To develop an appreciation of the right to counsel in the United States, individuals need to take the initiative to examine its historical roots and progress over time. Historical Perspective
Most people are aware that the United States criminal justice system is rooted in English common law. In 1695, the English courts first permitted an individual to be represented by private counsel in a treason trial (Zalman, 2008). During the period of 1695 through 1836, counsel in English courts was permitted on a case-by-case basis at the pleasure of the court (Pettys, 2011). In 1836, the English Parliament granted individuals charged with felonies the right to obtain legal counsel at their own expense (Pettys, 2011).
During the American colonial period, colonial leaders enthusiastically embraced the concept of the right to counsel. Following the events on the evening of March 5, 1770 John Adams successfully represented a group of English soldiers charged in connection with an event that was later titled the Boston Massacre (Linder, 2001). The concept of the right became a permanent component in the United States criminal justice system in 1791 with the ratification of the Sixth Amendment within the Bill of Rights (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). Individual Right to Counsel
The original intent of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution was to ensure individuals were afforded the right to be represented by counsel in criminal...