Right to Counsel
Every citizen living in the United States has the right to be well represented even if
he or she is accused of a crime no individual can be accused of a crime without a fair trial
and legal representation. When a criminal is being prosecuted he or she has the right to
enjoy an assistance of counsel for his or her defense. This right is granted to every
defendant to have an attorney represent them as soon as they are taken into custody by
Law enforcement officials. “The six amendment is the primary source of right to
counsel”.(Zalman,2008) In this paper I will analyze the aspects of right to counsel. I
will also examine the development of right to counsel and when the right to counsel
attaches to criminal procedures, as well as the write to self-representation. In addition I
will define the role of an attorney in the criminal justice system as it applies to right to
The right to counsel first began with a reaction that America had, America did
not enjoy how the English practice. The English would deny their people the right to an
attorney in serious criminal cases. Defendants had to appear in court by themselves and
represent themselves. The trial of Queen Mary in 1586 was a case that illustrated how
unfair to say the least the English practice was. “ Queen Mary was charged with treason
for already conspiring to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. Mary asked for assistance of
Counsel, pleading that “the law and statutes of England are to me most unknown; I am
destitute counselors… and no man dareth step forth to be my advocate”.
(Winick,1989,787) Her request were denied, and Mary was summarily convicted and
executed by decapitation”. (legal-dictionary) In 1932 the interpretation of this law began
to change and instituted onto the six amendment as well as the fourteenth amendment, and
Due process law. This interpretation began to evolve in the case of Powell v. Alabama where nine black individuals were in a fight and accused of raping a white girl in a train in
Alabama on March 25, 1931. When these black kids were caught and taken into custody
and were not able to contact their parents. They were convicted of the crime and sentence
to death on April 6. The attorney that represented these young kids was unprepared, the
kids appealed and were able to get an attorney that build a case in their favor. The
Supreme court later reversed the conviction of these kids due to the violation of the
Due process rights by appointing these kids an unprepared attorney. Which was a
violation of their due process right. A decade later the Powell case the case of Betts v.
Brady in 1942 came about, this case was a setback to the incorporation of the six
Amendment. “Betts confirmed the special circumstances rule of Powell. Betts a
Farmhand, was indicted for non capital robbery. Not having the money to hire a lawyer,
he ask the judge for appointed counsel at his arraignment. The judge refused, saying that
the Carroll county court appointed counsel for indigent defendants only in prosecutions
for murder and rape. Betts pleaded not guilty and defended himself in a non-jury trial
before the judge”. (Zalman,2008) Betts was found guilty and sentence to eight years.
Justice Black a spirited dessent urged incorporation of the six amendment right to counsel
to the fourteenth amendment. He argued that no men or women can appropriately defend
Themselves in a criminal case without a proper defense counsel, he states that it’s unfair
and violation of the due process.
The development of right to counsel was implicated centuries ago as the United
States wanted to distance themselves from the English law. Like any other law it took
time to develop and evolve with time people began to see how the law began...
References: www.legal-dictionary.com Right to counsel
Criminal Procedure: Constitution and Society, Fifth Edition, by Marvin Zalman.
Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright ©2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.
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