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Coleman v. Alabama

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 399 U.S. 1, 90 S. Ct. 1999, 26 L. Ed. 2d 387 (1970)

Brief Fact Summary. Petitioners were not allowed counsel at a lineup or at a preliminary hearing, and they were convicted of assault with intent to murder.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Failing to provide counsel at a preliminary hearing is an unconstitutional denial of assistance of counsel.

Facts. In the absence of counsel, petitioners were shown in a police lineup and required to say words used by one of the attackers. At this lineup, the victim was able to identify them. The petitioners were not provided counsel at a preliminary hearing that was not required by Alabama law, but the state did not use anything from the preliminary hearing at the trial. The petitioners were convicted of assault with intent to murder, appealed and were unsuccessful. The Supreme Court of Alabama denied review of the convictions and the petitioners were granted certiorari.

Issue. Are a criminal defendant’s rights to counsel denied by their not being presented with the assistance of an attorney at a preliminary hearing?

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