Criminal Trial Rights

By: Nathalya Diosa and Brian Dickinson (Period 6)

Criminal trial rights are the rights given to a defendant in which they have a number of legal rights and protections given by the Bill of Rights in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

Right to remain silent: This is a right given in the Fifth Amendment which provides that the defendant cannot be forced to speak. If the defendant chooses to not speak, the prosecutor cannot call the defendant as a witness or testify.
Right against self-incrimination: This right is given in the Self-Incrimination Clause in which provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. This allows the defendant to not give any evidence that might be used against them by the prosecution.
Right to confront witnesses: This is in the “confrontation clause” given in the Sixth Amendment. This allows the defendant to cross-examine witnesses, or require witnesses to come to court and be questioned by the defense. This amendment forbids prosecutors from proving a defendant’s guilt with oral or written statements given by non-testifying witnesses.
Right to a public trial: The Sixth Amendment guarantees public trials for criminal cases. This helps to ensure the public that the government is doing its job and providing rights to the defendant.
Right to an impartial jury: This means the jury is unbiased, and in doing so jurors are selected at random. Lawyers can also eliminate jurors because the lawyer may feel that the juror would not be sympathetic to his side. However, they can not be asked to leave based on race, sex, religion, or national origin.
Right to a speedy trial: The Sixth Amendment gives defendants this right, but never states exactly the time limit. Therefore, judges must go through many cases and decide if a case has been prolonged for too long that it must be thrown out.
Right to be represented by an attorney: The Sixth Amendment provides that in all criminal prosecutions the defendant is allowed an attorney, and if the defendant can not afford one then one will be be given to the defendant.
Right to not be placed in double jeopardy: This is a right provided in a clause given in the Fifth Amendment. It protects defendants from harassment by preventing them from being put on trial more than once for the same offense.

*Powell v. Alabama (1932)*AP Government Units: Constitutional underpinnings, Institutions of government (judicial), civil rights and civil liberties.
Key Words:Due process, right to counsel
Mnemonic Device: Please Offer Willing representation Even in Ludicrous and Lawbreaking cases.
Background: In 1932, nine black youths were accused of raping two white women. Three trials took place in one day, and all nine males were sentenced to death by an all white court. Alabama law required the appointment of counsel in capital cases, but the attorneys did not consult with their clients and done a little more than appear to represent them at trial.
Question: Did the trials violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Answer: Yes. The Court held that the trials denied due process because the defendants were not given reasonable time to secure counsel in their defence. Justice George Sutherland did not rest the the Court holding on the right-to-counsel guarantee of the Sixth Amendment.
Significance: Strengthened the right to counsel guarantee. It also strengthened the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Policy Impact: With this ruling the Court set a precedent for other cases in which counsel must be guaranteed to everyone facing the death sentence no matter if they are in a state or federal court.

Johnson v. Zerbst (1938)

AP Gov Units: The Court and the Constitution
Keywords: Violation of Due Process, Right to Fair Trial, Right to Counsel
Mnemonic Device: Justifying On Heavy sentences Not Supported On Needy defendants
Background: Johnson was detained for a crime and had not been represented by an attorney, and after filing for a release, he was denied. At this time he thought his Sixth Amendment rights were being violated, and so he appealed to the Supreme Court.
Question: Did the lower court infringe on the defendant’s rights by not providing an attorney?
Answer: Yes, Johnson did deserve to have an attorney, and he should have been released on the grounds that no case can be made without proper representation of the defendant.
Significance: Johnson v. Zerbst is another strength to the rights of defendants, makes possible for convicted peoples to have a better chance of proving their innocence.
Policy Impact: Lower Courts could not so easily detain and hold convicted peoples without granting them counsel to be tried. Johnson v. Zerbst was essential in reform of the judicial system by carrying out the rights detailed in the Sixth Amendment.

*Betts v. Brady (1941)* AP Gov Units: Constitutional Underpinnings
Keywords: Right to Counsel, Fair Trial Mnemonic Device: Better Earn money or Tough To Save case
Background: Betts was arrested and tried for robbery. In his trial, he appealed for a council and was denied counsel. Betts was found guilty.
Question: Does the Fourteenth Amendment force the right to counsel, or just deny the court interference with obtaining counsel?
Answer: The Fourteenth Amendment is set in place to keep the courts from denying counsel, not to provide for those without access to counsel.
Significance: Undermines the fair trial aspect of the Fourteenth Amendment. People who are convicted and cannot afford a counsel are essentially already guilty due to the lack of ability to obtain a lawyer.
Policy Impact: States could ignore the fair trial clause as they only needed to not interfere with any counsel and did not have to provide one to anyone who does not have one.

*Miranda v. Arizona (1963)*
AP Gov Units: Constitutional underpinnings, institutions of government (judicial), civil rights and civil liberties.
Keywords: self-incrimination, right to counsel
Mnemonic Device: Must Initially Read All rights before, Not During An interrogation.
Background: In 1963, Ernesto Miranda, a Phoenix resident, was arrested and charged with rape, kidnapping, and robbery. Miranda was not informed of his rights prior to police interrogation. During this interrogation, Miranda had given a confession of his actions in which the police had recorded without a counsel present for Miranda. In trial, Miranda was found guilty of rape, and kidnapping, and was sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison. The sentence was made solely on Miranda’s confession. This was all done without a counsel representing Miranda.
Question: Does the police practice of interrogating individuals without notifying them of their right to counsel and their protection against self-incrimination violate the Fifth Amendment?
Answer: Yes. The Court decided that the police could not use Miranda’s confession as evidence in a criminal trial because the police had failed to read him his rights before his interrogation.
Significance: This strengthened the Fifth Amendment right of protection against self-incrimination, as well as the Sixth Amendment the right to a counsel.
Policy Impact: The Court outlined specific statements that the police are required to tell a defendant prior to interrogation. These were known as “Miranda Rights” in which police started out by saying “You have the right to remain silent anything said can and will be used against you in a court of law.” These statements also included the right to an attorney.

*Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)*
AP Gov Units: Constitutional Underpinnings
Keywords: Right to Counsel, Judicial Activism Mnemonic Device: Getting Indicted Doesn’t Exclude One’s Needs -our wrights never wain
Background: Gideon convicted of breaking and entering, had no money for a lawyer and court refused to provide him with one. Gideon was found guilty and sentenced to five years in state prison.
Question: Was Gideon’s Sixth Amendment right violated when the court refused to provide a lawyer for Gideon?
Answer: The Supreme Court unanimously found that Gideon was in the right and that the court should have provided him with a lawyer if he himself could not.
Significance: Strengthened the ruling of the Fourteenth Amendment, representation in court is “a necessity, not a luxury” as stated by Justice Hugo Black

Policy Impact: Overturned the ruling in Betts v. Brady.The Fourteenth Amendment encompasses all cases, and even minor cases that state law prohibits the supplement of representation therein, must provide council in accordance with federal law. States must formulate
their laws around that of the Fourteenth Amendment, as their laws are inferior to that of the Constitution.

Massiah v. United States (1963)
AP Gov Units: Rights and Liberties
Keywords: Protection of Privacy, incrimination
Mnemonic Device: Manipulating A Suspect’s Sayings Is Always Humiliating
Background: Massiah and conspirator were tried for drug violations. During bail, the court bugged Massiah with conspirator’s cooperation, and the tapes revealed Massiah’s admittance to the crime.
Question: Can evidence found in dubious fashion be considered valid in a criminal or civil court cases?
Answer: No. Any evidence has to be found by legal means, even if partial party compliance is involved.
Significance: Strengthens the Sixth Amendment and the protection of the accused. Prevents big corporation or organisations with connections from forging or violating privacy and/ or tampering with evidence to convict the accused.
Policy Impact: When in a criminal or civil case, prosecution must take care to have all of the proper licenses and paperwork to present evidence, lest they are proven to be ill-gotten in which the evidence is moot.

Pointer v. Texas (1964)
AP Gov Units: Constitutional underpinnings, institutions of government (judicial), civil rights and civil liberties.
Keywords: Right to Confront and Cross-Examine, Compulsory Process
Mnemonic Device: Pointer Once IN Trial was never cross-Examined; Robbery
Background: Pointer and Dillard were arrested in Texas for robbing Kenneth Phillips by assault, or violence, or by putting in fear of life or bodily injury. This was in violation of Texas Penal Code Art. 1408. At the hearing, the DA conducted the prosecution and examined witnesses, but neither Pointer nor Dillard had a lawyer. Dillard tried to cross-examine Phillips but Pointer did not. Since Phillips was chief witness, he gave his version of the alleged robbery in detail. Phillips then left for California not intending to return to Texas. Phillips’ testimony was used at the hearing as evidence. Pointer’s counsel objected saying that Pointer did not cross-examine. However, the court denied the objections, because they said that at any point Pointer could have cross-examined but chose not to.
Question: Was the use of the testimony a violation of Pointer’s Sixth Amendment rights?
Answer: In a 9 to 0 decision in favor of Pointer, the Court ruled that Pointer was protected under the Sixth Amendment. The introduction of such testimony, which was given when Pointer was present without being represented by a counsel, constituted a denial of his Sixth Amendment rights.
Significance: Sixth Amendment provides that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the be confronted with the witness against him.” Therefore, the case strengthened the Sixth Amendment, and that this guarantee was applicable to the states via Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Policy Impact: The Court ruled that this right must be determined by the same standards that hold in federal proceedings. This rule is given so that the defendant being charged has an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses against them. The Court also acknowledges some practical limits, such as declaration of dying persons, and testimony of deceased witnesses who testified in earlier trials could still be admissible.

Parker v. Gladden (1966):
AP Gov Units: Constitutional underpinnings, institutions of government (judicial), civil rights and civil liberties.

Keywords: Due process, Sixth Amendment, impartial jury Mnemonic Device: Parker Always Remembers that Knowledge is not an Efficient Requirement
Background: Parker was convicted of second degree murder. He petitioned for post-conviction relief, in which the trial court found that the bailiff assigned to shepherd the jury had made multiple comments about Parker being guilty. This ultimately got Parker convicted of his crime.
Question: Were the comments made by the bailiff a violation of the Sixth Amendment?
Answer: In a decision of 8 to 1 in favor of Parker, the Court ruled that the statements were a violation of Parker’s right to an impartial jury stated in the Sixth Amendment. They reversed his conviction.
Significance: It strengthened the Sixth Amendment, and it gave criminal defendants in any court the opportunity to an impartial jury.

Policy Impact: The right to an impartial jury also applied to state courts as well as federal courts.

Washington v. Texas (1966)
AP Gov Units: Constitutional underpinnings, institutions of government (judicial), civil rights and civil liberties.
Keywords: Right to confront and cross-examine, compulsory process
Mnemonic Device: Witnesses Are Safe to Have a testifying statement IN Going for or againsT ONe’s accomplice
Background: Washington and his accomplice were charged with fatal shooting and convicted of 50 years in prison. Washington had attempted to call up his co-defendant as witness; however, this action is prohibited by state law in Texas courts. This law was made under the assumption that either defendant could cover for one another.
Question: Was the right to compulsory process violated in this case?
Answer: Yes. In a court decision of 9 to 0 in favor of Washington, they felt it was necessary to provide that defendants in criminal cases should be allowed the means of obtaining witnesses. This would allow their evidence as well as the evidence of the prosecution to be evaluated by the jury.
Significance: It strengthened the Sixth Amendment by applying the rights of this amendment to state criminal trials.

Policy Impact: The rule that disqualifies an accomplice from testifying on behalf of the defendant cannot be defended by the assumption that the group of persons are likely to commit perjury. It is only fair since an accomplice may be called by the prosecution to testify against the defendant.

Argersinger v. Hamlin (1972)
AP Gov Units: Constitutional Underpinnings
Keywords: Right to Counsel, Due Process
Mnemonic Device: Have to Appoint Mediary even when Lacking Intensity or Negligence
Background: Argersinger was arrested, sentenced to 90 days in jail. Florida law ignored jury trials for verdicts under six months, so the state court thought they could ignore representation in counsel.
Question: By not appointing counsel, was the Florida Law unconstitutional in misrepresentation?
Answer: Yes, no matter the verdict, Argersinger still deserved to have counsel according to the Sixth Amendment.
Significance: No matter what type of case be it criminal or civil, all cases treat the defendant with their due rights, and no law can abridge the access to one’s right to counsel.
Policy Impact: Laws of the states are no longer permitted to restrict any rights that the defendant may have even if the case is considered to be a waste of time in being misdemeanor, or civil case, right to counsel must not be denied or interfered with.

Montejo v. Louisiana (2008)
AP Gov Units: Constitutional underpinnings, Institutions of government (judicial), civil rights and civil liberties.
Keywords: Sixth Amendment, right to counsel
Mnemonic Device: Montejo ONly Thought Evidence Justifiable if attorney Observed.
Background: Montejo was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Lewis Ferrari. The prosecution submitted Montejo’s letter of apology he wrote to Ferrari’s wife. Montejo wrote this letter at the suggestion of the detective. Montejo was read his Miranda rights and wrote his explanation of why he was participating in the search for the weapon. However, his attorney had been appointed that same morning of the search, and Montejo didn't know this. He then stated that the letter was not valid evidence since his attorney was not present.
Question: After the appointment of an attorney, does a defendant need to take additional steps to accept the appointment in order to secure the protections given by the Sixth Amendment?
Answer: In a 5 to 4 decision in favor of Montejo, held that evidence obtained through interrogation after the defendant has invoked his right to counsel was invalid
Significance: This strengthened the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel.
Policy Impact:The Court had overruled their prior decision in Michigan v. Jackson which they stated this to be a valid situation.

political cartoon april 8.png
This is a political cartoon that is poking fun at the right to an attorney.
Another political cartoon poking fun at the right to an attorney.

A political cartoon that is poking fun of the Sixth Amendment rights.


Criminal trial rights- are the rights given to a defendant in which they have a number of legal rights and protections given by the Bill of Rights.
Due Process- fair treatment through the judicial system.
Right to counsel- a defendant being allowed to be represented by an attorney.
Fair trial- a trial that contains all the rights given by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
Judicial Activism- The way in which the Supreme Court and other judges may view the Constitution; they can interpret the Constitution for themselves and take the words loosely.
Impartial Jury- An unbiased jury.

1. What are some criminal rights?

2. Why is the case Miranda v. Arizona important?

3. What was the impact of the Gideon v. Wainwright?

4. Which Amendment forces the States to follow the Bill of Rights?

5. Name one Incorporation Case.

6. Aside from a lack of attorney, why else would the Supreme Court rule the issue in Powell v. Alabama unconstitutional?

Works Cited

McBride, Alex. "Miranda v. Arizona." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
"MIRANDA v. ARIZONA." Miranda v. Arizona. The Oyez Project, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <
"Parker v. Gladden - 385 U.S. 363 (1966)." Justia US Supreme Court Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
"Parker v. Gladden." FindLaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Pointer v. Texas 380 U.S. 400 (1965)." Pointer v. Texas 380 U.S. 400 (1965). N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013.
"Pointer v. Texas." Answers, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Powell v. Alabama." Infoplease. Infoplease, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <>.
"POWELL v. ALABAMA." Powell v. Alabama. The Oyez Project, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <
"Washington v. Texas." FindLaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <>.