Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner appealed from a conviction when his waiver of the right to counsel was denied.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. While there is a sixth amendment right to counsel, that does not abrogate the defendant’s right to self-representation.
A prosecutor is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether a defendant may waive the right to counsel in the interest of self-representation.
Held. Justice Stewart, for the court, held “it is one thing to hold that every accused has the right to the assistance of counsel, and quite another to say that a State may compel a defendant to accept a lawyer he does not want.”
Dissent. In two dissents, both Justice Burger and Justice Blackmun write that there is nothing constitutional that requires a state to allow a defendant to conduct his own defense.
Discussion. Just as there is a sixth amendment right to counsel, a defendant also has the right to chose to represent himself.