this was not an appeal from a criminal conviction. It was not a question of a statement that a defendant was asking to be suppressed because he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. This was a civil claim under 42 U. S. C. §1983. The Plaintiff was arrested and charged with felon in possession of a handgun, although he was not a felon. At his first appearance before a magistrate, he asked repeatedly for his attorney which was not provided to him. He appeared before a magistrate, was released on bail, was indicted and re-arrested, and spent three weeks in jail before an appointed attorney was able to explain to the prosecutor that he was not a felon and should not have been arrested in the first place.So part of the confusion about Rothgery may be that, since the ruling stems from a civil case, it contains none of the usual trappings one expects from a criminal court decision - the exclusion of evidence, etc.. For example, the court notably declined to dictate at what point in the process Gillespie County must appoint a lawyer, narrowly defining the question they answered in terms of the civil case. However, IMO the court's conclusion that Texas' article 15.17 hearing marks the point of attachment for the Sixth Amendment right to counsel still has significant implications for Texas criminal law - at least for counties that weren't appointing counsel until after indictment - even if that's not the context in which SCOTUS decided the question. This was a narrow decision, but for Texas at least, not quite vanishing.
His claim was that if he had been provided a lawyer within a reasonable time after he requested one at the initial appearance before the magistrate, he would not have been indicted, re-arrested, and jailed for those three weeks.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
A possible explanation for Rothgery confusion
Folks are still trying to figure out what the Rothgery case decided by SCOTUS this week really means. A perhaps helpful insight comes from the blogger at South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer, who points out that: