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FAIR AND EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL
The Sixth Amendment – a collection of rights,
essential to protecting defendants against injustice
in the courts. This amendment then is a guidebook,
detailing how our God-given rights are protected
during criminal prosecutions. Defendants are
guaranteed a speedy trial by an impartial jury of
their peers. They are also entitled to confront
and cross-examine witnesses, known as the
Confrontation Clause, and they have the right to
call their own witnesses.
It’s that last clause — the Right to an Attorney —
that many say is the most important part of the
When first written, the clause didn’t mean — not
yet anyway — that defendants had the right to a
court-appointed attorney if they couldn’t afford
one on their own. It was typical for defendants in
the colonies to represent themselves in front of
Remembering that the Bill of Rights was ratified in
1791, the Right to an Attorney clause simply meant
that if they wanted to hire a lawyer, they were
entitled to it. This was in stark contrast to British
law, stipulating that unless defendants were
charged with treason, felony suspects had no right
to a lawyer.
It wasn’t until 1932 that the Supreme Court ruled
that defendants have a right to have the government
appoint, and pay for, a defense lawyer. Powell v.
Alabama 287 U.S. 45 (1932). In this case, the
United States Supreme Court threw out the
convictions of several defendants based upon a
lack of access to assistance of counsel, and its
progeny established and expanded the Sixth
Amendment right to effective counsel. Given the
intricacies of the law, and the stakes involved for
felony defendants, that decision further ensured all
Americans are equal under the law and that “Lady
Justice,” with her iconic blindfold, meant that
justice must always be impartial and fair.
Protecting acccused against injustice in the courts.