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Betts v. Brady

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 316 U.S. 455, 62 S. Ct. 1252, 86 L. Ed. 1595, 1942 U.S.

Brief Fact Summary. The petitioner, Betts (the “petitioner”), was indicted for robbery in circuit court in Maryland. He was indigent and unable to retain an attorney. When he requested the Court appoint him an attorney, the Court informed the petitioner that it was not the practice of the Court to appoint counsel for indigent defendants, except in prosecutions for murder and rape.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (”Constitution”) does not embody an inexorable command that any indigent defendant in state court is entitled to a court appointed/state compensated counsel.


Facts. The petitioner was indicted for robbery in circuit court in Maryland. The petitioner did not have sufficient funds with which to retain an attorney. He informed the Judge of this fact at his arraignment and requested the Court appoint him counsel. The Judge informed the petitioner that it was not the practice of the Court to appoint counsel for indigent defendants, except in prosecutions for murder and rape. Without waiving his right to be represented by counsel, the petitioner pleaded not guilty and elected to be tried without a jury. The petitioner cross examined prosecution witnesses, caused witnesses to be called on his behalf, asserted the defense of alibi, and elected to not take the stand himself. The Judge found the petitioner guilty and imposed a sentence of eight years.
While serving his sentence, the petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, with the circuit court, asserting he had been deprived the right to assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. His contention was rejected. He then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, again asserting he was denied his Fourteenth Amendment constitutional right to be represented by counsel. Judge Bond granted the writ, but denied the relief requested in the petition. Thereafter, the Petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (”Supreme Court”) for certiorari directed toward Judge Bond.

Issue.
Whether the judgment issued by Judge Bond was rendered by the highest court in which a decision could be made on a federal question?

Whether Betts had exhausted all state remedies in state court?

Whether the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution demands that in every criminal case, whatever the circumstances, a State must furnish counsel to an indigent defendant?

Content Type: Brief


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