The opportunity for defendants in federal criminal proceedings to be represented by lawyers, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Although the Sixth Amendment
Although some states required the appointment of lawyers even before the Sixth Amendment was ratified, there was no national code of due process that obligated the states to provide legal help for people accused of crimes. It was not until 1932 that the Court imposed even a limited requirement on state courts to provide legal counsel, and as late as 1963, some states still refused to pay for lawyers for poor defendants.
In Powell v. Alabama
Although the Court had the opportunity to apply the right to counsel to all state criminal cases in Betts v. Brady
The Court had been looking for just the right case to overrule what most of them considered a flawed decision in Betts v. Brady. To reverse Betts, the Court needed a case in which an intelligent person, denied a lawyer, had been unable to successfully defend himself. Because Gideon was an intelligent man, there could be no question that the trial judge might have improperly denied him special circumstances status. Likewise, because Gideon was white, there could be no question of possible racial discrimination to muddy the waters. The charges against Gideon were not complicated. Gideon was an intelligent man, with a sympathetic, even helpful trial judge, who failed miserably to defend himself against noncomplex charges. This made Gideon the perfect case to overrule the special circumstances doctrine, and on March 18, 1963, a unanimous Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Hugo L. Black, applied the right to counsel to all state criminal proceedings.
In Argersinger v. Hamlin
Gideon left many important questions unanswered, including at what point in the criminal investigation a suspect who requested a lawyer had to be provided with one. In Escobedo v. Illinois
In Miranda v. Arizona
Garcia, Alfredo. The Sixth Amendment in Modern American Jurisprudence. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1992. Horne, Gerald. “Powell v. Alabama”: The Scottsboro Boys and American Justice. New York: Franklin Watts, 1997. Lewis, Anthony. Gideon’s Trumpet. 1964. New York: Vintage, 1989. Stephen, John, and Earl Sweeney. Officer’s Interrogation Handbook. New York: LexisNexis, 2004. Taylor, John B. Right to Counsel and Privilege Against Self-Incrimination: Rights and Liberties Under the Law. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2004. Tomkovicz, James J. The Right to the Assistance of Counsel: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Wice, Paul B. “Miranda v. Arizona”: “You Have the Right to Remain Silent. . . .” New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.
Argersinger v. Hamlin
Betts v. Brady
Escobedo v. Illinois
Gideon v. Wainwright
Indigent criminal defendants
Johnson v. Zerbst
Miranda v. Arizona
Powell v. Alabama
Self-incrimination, immunity against