Right to Counsel Article - 89047

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Right to Counsel Article

            According to Zalman (2011) from its origin in the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century English common law did not permit attorneys in jury trials. Before, criminal defendants had to represent themselves in English criminal trials, except in major treason trails in 1695, which defendants had the right to legal representation. Although lawyers could give advice to defendants, they were forbidden to speak in the trial. In 1836 English defendants gain the right to be represented by paid lawyers in felony trials. Colonial America embrace the idea of using an attorney in criminal trials. So the federal Bill of Rights and most states’ bill of rights guaranteed right to counsel in criminal cases. During this time the right to counsel applied to those defendants who could afford to pay lawyers for their services. Most indigent defendants, people who could not afford to pay for a lawyer, had to represent themselves with some advice from judges to ensure they would not incriminate themselves in court (Zalman, 2011, p. 294).

            Although it was not implied in the Constitution if federal and state governments had to provide counsel for defendants to ensure a fair trial, the first half of the twentieth century put a critical issue of counsel cases in the laps of the Justices of the Supreme Court. They were faced with the issue of the states providing counsel for indigents. With the growth of urban population and bureaucratic, multi-judge courts needed a more formal legal aid and defender system instead of past ad hoc methods of providing lawyers for indigents. In 1932 the Supreme Court began to change those methods and to define the right to counsel (Zalman, 2011, p. 295). There were several significant Supreme Court opinions that settled the issue of the right to counsel but two will be discussed for the purposes of this article; Powell v. Alabama (1932) and Gide