Powell v Alabama case study Essay

648 Words Oct 11th, 2013 3 Pages
Nick Crusco
10/09/2013
Mr. Cooper
Criminal Justice
Powell v Alabama A group of African-American youths were on a freight train through Alabama. They got into a fight with some white youths, throwing the white boys from the train. A message was sent, requesting all blacks be removed from the train. Two white girls on the train testified that they had been raped by six different youths in turn. The youths were taken into custody. The community was very hostile, as a mob met the youths. The trial judge appointed “all members of the bar” for the purpose of the arraignment. The defendants themselves were illiterate and “ignorant”. They were all tried separately, each trial lasting a day, convicted, and sentenced to death. Throughout the
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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 give 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 disregard.”
With this ruling, the Court set a precedent—under the 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 Scottsboro case was the beginning of an “incorporation” into State constitutions of fair trial rights guaranteed by the 6th Amendment. These rights were made applicable to the States by the 14th Amendment. This was a landmark case that forever changed the way our

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