POWELL v. ALABAMA

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
98
Petitioner 
Powell
Respondent 
Alabama
Opinion 
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Nine black youths -- young, ignorant, and illiterate -- were accused of raping two white women. Alabama officials sprinted through the legal proceedings: a total of three trials took one day and all nine were sentenced to death. Alabama law required the appointment of counsel in capital cases, but the attorneys did not consult with their clients and had done little more than appear to represent them at the trial. This case was decided together with Patterson v. Alabama and Weems v. Alabama.

Question 

Did the trials violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion 

Yes. The Court held that the trials denied due process because the defendants were not given reasonable time and opportunity to secure counsel in their defense. Though Justice George Sutherland did not rest the Court holding on the right-to-counsel guarantee of the Sixth Amendment, he repeatedly implicated that guarantee. This case was an early example of national constitutional protection in the field of criminal justice.

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POWELL v. ALABAMA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 31 August 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1932/1932_98>.
POWELL v. ALABAMA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1932/1932_98 (last visited August 31, 2014).
"POWELL v. ALABAMA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 31, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1932/1932_98.