Powell v Alabama case study
The defendants themselves were illiterate and “ignorant”. They were all tried separately, each trial lasting a day, convicted, and sentenced to death.
Throughout the proceedings, none of the “Storybook” boys was allowed to contact their relatives, who lived out of State. On the day of the trial, an out-of-town attorney appeared for the defendants but announced that he could not formally represent them. The trial judge called on all the local lawyers present to assume responsibility for defending the nine young men, but only one agreed.
The two lawyers had no opportunity to investigate the case or consult with their “clients,” All nine youths were found guilty by four separate juries, despite testimony from doctors who said they found no evidence of rape upon examining the women. Eight of the nine men received the death penalty.
The convictions were appealed through the State courts of Alabama, and failing there, went to the Supreme Court. The question before the Court regarded the right to legal counsel guaranteed by the 6th Amendment, and how that right was applied to the States by the 14th Amendment.
Must States revive counsel to citizens who cannot afford an attorney? Could a citizen be sentenced to death without benefit of counsel? Was the right to counsel so fundamental that the trial could not be fair without an attorney being provided? Was the right to counsel guaranteed in State trials by the 14th Amendment? Justice Sutherland wrote the 7-2 majority opinion, overturning the convictions of the young African American men and requiring that a new trial be held with the benefit of legal counsel appointed by the court.
Sutherland wrote “No attempt was made to investigate and the defendants were immediately hurried to trial.
” The Court noted that “a defendant, charged with a serious crime, must not be stripped of his right to have sufficient time to advise with counsel and prepare his defense. ” To deny that, Sutherland wrote, “is not to proceed promptly In the calm spirit of regulated Justice but to go forward with the haste of the mob. ” The Court found that the right to counsel was one of the fundamental principles of liberty and Justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions.
We think the failure of the trial court to eve the defendant’s reasonable time and opportunity to secure counsel was a clear denial of due process. There are certain immutable principles of justice which embody the very idea of free government which no member of the Union may toy 2 Algebra. ” Wilt tens ruling, ten court set a precedent?unaware ten Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, counsel must be guaranteed to everyone facing a possible death sentence, whether in State or federal court.
The Storybook case was the beginning of an “incorporation” into State constitutions of fair trial rights remunerated by the 6th Amendment.