Ayestas v. Davis (Argument October 30, 2017)

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Supreme Court Graphic Explainer: Ayestas v. Davis

Background

Today it's common knowledge that criminal defendants will be appointed a defense attorney. In 1963, Clarence Earl Gideon fought for that right. At the time, the law only provided a defense attorney in capital cases. Gideon represented himself against felony charges (entering a poolroom with intent to commit a misdemeanor) in state court and lost. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Gideon filed a petition for review called habeas corpus. A habeas petition is a claim of unlawful detention, a civil claim against the state agent holding the claimant in custody. The Supreme Court said Gideon was entitled to a government-paid attorney under the Sixth Amendment (Gideon v. Wainwright).

The next year, Congress passed the Criminal Justice Act. Indigent criminal defendants became entitled not only to an attorney but also to "investigative, expert, and other services necessary to an adequate defense.” 

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Ayestas v. Davis

This case will determine how a court should evaluate an application for investigative services.

Our graphic explainer takes you through the case history and the question before the Court.

For more information on the case, see the SCOTUSblog page. The petitioner's brief (Ayesta's), for example, does a good "Statement of the Case" from Ayestas's view (at p. 5 of the brief).