American Constitutional Government

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Updated: Feb 15, 2019
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In the 1932 nine young black African American men Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Haywood Patterson, Andrew (Andy) Wright, Leroy (Roy) Wright and Eugene Williams, later known as the Scottsboro Boys were accused of raping two young white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price. The nine young African American men hopped an aboard an empty freight train heading through Alabama. A group of young white men had also hopped the train for transportation through the State. A fight broke out and all but one of the white men were thrown from the train. Enraged they sent a message ahead to the town of Scottsboro to report the incident. When the local sheriff and a mob of citizens stopped the train before it reached Scottsboro, two young white women accused the African American men of rape although one woman changed her claim. All defendants except for 13-year-old Roy Wright were sentenced to death in a series of three one day trails. All nine were taken into custody and when word of the allegations spread angry crowds gathered around the jailhouse. Unable to restrain the demonstrators or guarantee the safety of the young African American men, the sheriff called for the Alabama National Guard.

While under the protection of the National Guard were not told they could hire lawyers or even contact their families. Throughout the proceedings none of them could contact their family who lived out of State. They had no access to a lawyer until shortly before trail leaving little or no time to plan the defense. On the day of the trail an out of town lawyer showed up for the defendants but announced that he could not formally represent them. The judge summons all local lawyers present to assume responsibility for defending the nine young men, but the only one agreed. The two lawyers had no opportunity to investigate the case or consult with their clients. All nine young African American young men were found guilty by four separate juries, despite testimony from doctors who said they found no evidence of rape upon examining the eight of the nine men received the death penalty. All but thirteen-year-old Roy Wright were convicted of rape and sentenced to death. With the help from the American Communist Party the convictions were appealed through State courts of Alabama, and failing there, went to the Supreme Court. They appealed their convictions on the grounds that the group was not provided, adequate legal counsel.

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The Alabama Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the trial was fair. Chief Justice Anderson wrote a strongly worded dissenting opinion. The defendants appealed the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Upon waiting for their trails, eight of the nine defendants stayed in Kilby Prison. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that due process had been violated. Writing for himself and six other Justices, Justice Sutherland explained the Court’s ruling as follows: ” In the light of theignorance and illiteracy of the defendants, their youth, the circumstances of public hostility, the imprisonment and the close surveillance of the defendants by the military forces, the fact that their friends and families were all in other states and communication with them necessarily difficult, and above all that they stood in deadly peril of their lives we think the failure of trial court to give them reasonable time and opportunity to secure counsel was a clear denial of due process. But passing that, and assuming their inability, even if the opportunity had been given, to employ counsel, under the circumstances just stated, the necessity of counsel was likewise a denial of due process within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Constitutional Issues Court regarded the right to legal counsel guaranteed by the 6th Amendment, and how that right was applied to the States by the 14th Amendment. Must States provide counsel to citizens who cannot afford an attorney? Could a citizen be sentenced to death without the benefit of counsel? Was the right to counsel so fundamental that the trail could not be fair without an attorney being provided? Was the right to counsel guaranteed in State trails by the 14th Amendment? Defense: The Scottsboro trails were a caricature of justice the accused have been railroaded into a prejudiced system.

These young African American men’s right to proper counsel was essential to these very serious criminal proceedings any trial conducted without a proper defense attorney was unreasonable in all aspects. Not to mean one of them is a minor not being able to communicate with any family and friends for emotional support while going through such a horrendous situation. Medical professional supports no sexual misconduct took place. Then one of the assumed victims recants her story stating these young men did not cause either one of these young lady’s bodily harm. Alabama’s administration of the trail was prejudice and a violation of a basic rule of decency and justice under the Constitution. I demand that the previous convictions of death sentences be overturned, and all charges are dropped due to misconduct of the 6th and 14th Amendment of the Constitution these young men rights have been violated.

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American Constitutional Government. (2019, Feb 15). Retrieved from