Powell v. Alabama: The Background
The case of Powell v. Alabama was a landmark trial heard by the United States Supreme Court. The case ultimately determined that in a capital legal trial, the defending party is always awarded access to a lawyer if he or she requests on. Defendants in all capital cases are awarded this right because of the due process clause of the United States Constitution.
The case of Powell v. Alabama begins with events that occurred in the spring of 1931. During this time, Nine African American boys were accused of raping two young white girls, named Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. The boys, who were called the Scottsboro Boys, were travelling on a train with nine white people. A fight between the two sides broke out and all but one of the white males was thrown from the moving train. The white women on board then accused the African American boys of raping them. However, after the initial claim, one woman went back on this statement and said the boys did not touch the girls. Each of the defendants, except for one boy, was sentenced to death in a series of quick and careless trials.
Powell v. Alabama: The Trial
The Scottsboro boys (the defendants in the trial between Powell v. Alabama) were only allowed to talk to their lawyers right before the trial started. This lack of time prevented the Scottsboro boys from creating a solid defense strategy. Because of their rights being denied, the Scottsboro boys appealed the harsh decision.
The original case which found the Scottsboro boys guilty of rape was heard in the Alabama State Court. Because the boys were not given a fair trial they appealed and took their case to the Alabama Supreme Court.
During the appeal—the state Supreme Court in a 6-1 ruling found that the original trial was fair. Again upset by this ruling, the boys used their last appeal and brought the case to the United States Supreme Court.
In Powell v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court reversed the original rulings made by the state courts. The United States Supreme Court, in Powell v. Alabama found that the state had violated the boys’ Constitutional rights by not allowing them to discuss the case with their lawyers. These rights, which are awarded in the due process clause of the United States Constitution, must be awarded to every citizen of the United States. Because the boys were not given a fair trial and were denied the right to speak with lawyers, their charges were dropped and they were able to walk free.
Powell v. Alabama was heard on October 10th of 1932. The case was decided on November 7th of the same year.