The Law: The Sausage Factories

Every high school civics student is taught that "in all criminal prosecutions," the Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants "assistance of counsel." It was not until 1963, however, that the Supreme Court's Gideon decision extended that right to all those accused of felonies in state-court proceedings. Yet most defendants still did not benefit because 90% of them were tried for non-felony offenses in lower state and local courts—the so-called sausage factories of the criminal-justice system. Not until a 1972 decision involving a Floridian convicted without a lawyer of a misdemeanor did the court finally rule...

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