Select Page

Criminal Procedure II
Rutgers University, Newark School of Law
Thomas, George C.

Criminal Adjudication Outline
I. Addressing Failures in State Criminal Processes
A. Scottsboro Rapes: Powell v. Alabama 287 US 45 (1932)
1. Facts: Defendants were negroes charged with the rape of two white women.
a. The judge appointed the entire bar for the purpose of arraigning the defendants and anticipated that the members of the bar would continue to help the defendants if no counsel appeared.
b. Each trial lasted one day and all defendants were sentenced to death.
2. Issue: Defendants were denied due process of law and the equal protection of laws
a. Ground 1: they were not given a fair, impartial, and deliberate trial
b. Ground 2: they were denied the right of counsel, with the accustomed incidents of consultation and opportunity of preparation for trial (Supreme Court only addressed this issue)
c. Ground 3: they were tried before juries from which qualified members of their own race were systematically excluded (Thomas says this would have been the only real way to eradicate injustice in the South)
3. Narrow Holding: “All that is necessary now to decide, as we do decide, is that in a capital case, where defendant is unable to employ counsel, and is incapable adequately of making his own defense because of ignorance, feeble mindedness, illiteracy or the like, it is the duty of the court, whether requested or not, to assign counsel for him as a necessary requisite of due process of law; and that duty is not discharged by an assignment at such time or under such circumstances as to preclude the giving of effective aid in the preparation and trial of the case.”
4. Reasoning
a. The record shows that immediately upon the return of the indictment defendants were arraigned and pleaded not guilty. They were not asked whether or not they had counsel or needed time to retain counsel. –It was shown that had they been given time by a reasonable delay in the trial of cases th

ave made such an application to the court
b. Federalism: the Court entered into state criminal procedure territory by applying the 14th Amendment to this case

B. Three factors that lead judges to a particular outcome:
1) Judges are citizens of a free democracy = weigh security v. individual rights
2) Federalism: federal judges for most of our history have been reluctant to interpose the federal Constitution in matters that might plausibly be considered “local”
3) Racism: the range of choices that are available to judges in one state or region may be different from the acceptable range in any other parts of the country = Powell: speedy trial or lynching of defendants

C. Betts v. Brady 316 US 455 (1942): overruled by Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)