Until the Betts ruling was reversed in 1963, indigent criminal defendants in state trials did not have the constitutional right to a lawyer’s assistance.
Betts, a poor defendant prosecuted for robbery in Maryland, asked his trial court to appoint a lawyer for his defense. The local policy, however, was to appoint counsel only in cases of murder or rape. After his conviction, Betts filed habeas corpus petitions, alleging that his rights under the Sixth Amendment
In his majority opinion in Betts, Justice Owen J. Roberts argued that counsel was not necessary for a fair trial in Betts's circumstances.
The issue before the Court was whether the right to counsel should be incorporated into the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Three dissenters Hugo L. Black,
Certiorari, writ of
Counsel, right to
Due process, procedural
Gideon v. Wainwright
Hague v. Congress of Industrial Organizations
Indigent criminal defendants
Powell v. Alabama