Criminal Procedure, Pages 13–15

Powell v. Alabama

1932

Facts:

Nine young black men got into a fight with seven young white men on a train. Six of the seven white men were thrown off the train in the fight. Two young white prostitute women, also on the train, accused all the black men of raping them both. A sheriff's posse arrested the men on the train and took them to Scottsboro where they were charged with assault and rape. The defendants were illiterate and not appointed counsel, but they were tried within six days anyway.

Procedural History:

Defendants were convicted and sentenced to death.

Issue:

Were the defendants' Fourteenth Amendment due process rights violated?

Rule:

In a capital case, it is a violation of a defendant's due process rights to not give him time and opportunity to secure counsel.

Holding:

Not giving the defendants an opportunity to secure counsel was a denial of their due process rights. Reversed.

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