Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Right to Counsel for Children Remains an Unfulfilled Promise

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Right to Counsel for Children Remains an Unfulfilled Promise

Article excerpt

Due process, the right against self-incrimination and the right to counsel are the cornerstone of our Constitution. Monday marked the 50th anniversary for the In re Gault decision, which mandated basic due process rights for children, including the right to counsel, the right to confront witnesses, the right to notice of the charges and the right against self-incrimination. However, the right to counsel for children in Missouri remains an unfulfilled promise.

Gerald Gault was 15 years old on June 8, 1964, when he was taken into custody in Arizona with his friend, Ronald Lewis. They were accused of making inappropriate calls to a neighbor, Ora Cook. Gerald was taken into custody without his parents being notified. The court held two court hearings in which Cook did not appear, there was no transcript of the proceedings, and Gerald was questioned without help from an attorney. The judge committed Gerald to juvenile detention for six years, until he turned 21.

If Gerald had been an adult, he would have received a maximum sentence of a $50 fine and two months in jail. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the judge's decision in Gerald's case and found that "it would be extraordinary if our Constitution did not require the procedural regularity and the exercise of care implied in the phrase 'due process.' Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court."

Unfortunately, children in Missouri are still being interrogated without ever speaking to an attorney, and are waiving their right to have an attorney represent them in court. In 2013, the National Juvenile Defense Center found Missouri's defense system for poor children to be "in crisis" and "youth are discouraged from and systematically denied counsel throughout the state."

Two years later, the U.S. Department of Justice found that children, particularly children of color, are routinely denied basic constitutional rights. The Department of Justice also found that children of color are more likely to be detained in detention centers, more likely to have cases filed against them, and are more likely to be placed out of their home in the Division of Youth Services. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.