Thurgood Marshall in the Case of Connecticut V. Joseph Spell

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Thurgood Marshall in the Case of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell

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The sixth amendment is one of the many protections we have to combat those who want to violate our inalienable rights, as given by the constitution. It states “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…….to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” (Enotes) This amendment is significant in the court of law because it promises an individual some of the main features of due process. (Enotes) Overall, this amendment serves the purpose of making a trial fair. In the case of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, the access of these liberties allowed his trial to be equally carried out in a time where African Americans had none of the advantages their white counterparts did. As Spell’s assigned council, Thurgood Marshall played an important role in assuring Spell’s innocence of the charges brought against him.

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Part of our human nature is having the ability to empathize with others- in simpler terms it means that we are able to put ourselves in another’s shoes and imagine oneself in their situation while understanding the emotions or ideas of that person. ( Not to be confused with sympathy- sharing someone’s feelings especially of sorrow or trouble, but not exactly relating to them in a personal way. ( It is obvious that Thurgood Marshall; head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) felt very empathetic towards the indigent offenders who could not afford counsel after being accused of a crime. The NAACP’s mission is “to ensure the political educational, social, and economic quality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.” (NCAAP). This civil rights group was formed in response to the constant discrimination of African Americans and was motivated by the 1908 Springfield race riot in which two black men were held in jail for alleged crimes because of their race ( Thurgood Marshall’s efforts of traveling to Connecticut solely for the duty of representing Joseph Spell shows that he was a moral man who wanted to fight for what is right. I believe that Marshall as well as the NAACP had a sense of justice, and it served as the inspiration behind their actions. The NAACP played an essential role in achieving America’s desire for racial equality, which began in the 1950’s with what is known as the civil rights movement. Based on their courageous endeavors to represent the discriminated against “colored people” at a time when they endured many racially based hardships, we can see how anyone a part of this group has a strong sense of integrity and a desire for justice.

When the news tabloids reported the case of the colored chauffer who raped, kidnapped, and threw wealthy Connecticut woman Eleanor Strubing off a bridge, it fortunately caught the interest of the top lawyer of the NCAAP, Thurgood Marshall (Smithsonian Mag). In a time where lynching’s were the dominate form of punishment for African American offenders, every case that there was a possibility of avoiding this death sentence was crucial to fight back. Eleanor Strubing insisted that she was sexually assaulted and kidnapped by her chauffer after he entered her bedroom while her husband was out of town. Joseph Spell said that it was consensual sexual intercourse and not in a violent manner as Eleanor described. When initially questioned, Spell did not tell law enforcement that the sexual interactions were mutual because he feared for his life since a black man in his native Louisiana would most likely be put to death if something like that occurred there. This shows that although the North had written out segregation laws, it still existed throughout the country. Thanks to the sixth amendment, Marshall was able to work together with local lawyer, Sam Friedman, to expose the many discrepancies of Strubing’s account of the attack, in court. At the time, Marshall was already a well renowned lawyer. Taking on this case was not only a way that he could assist someone in need with the odds against them, but the publicity it accumulated was beneficial to the NCAAP as a whole because it was an effective aspect to recruitment new members. Using the famous Thurgood Marshall in this case was a smart move by the organization, because they knew using a popular figure would make people pay attention. This case was only the start of Thurgood’s notorious career, he achieved a lot and paved the way for racial equality. He won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the civil court, served on the Supreme Court as the first African American justice, and won the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education that ended segregation in schools. (

Thurgood Marshall’s efforts were fundamental in combating racial segregation in our country because of brave men like him, we no longer have a great divide. Marshall and the NCAAP’s desire for justice is what inspired many for future generations to make advancements towards equality. The sixth amendment is necessary for making trials unbiased and fair since it sets forth rights for the accused by allowing the assistance of counsel, the right to a speedy and public trial, and more. If this amendment had not been ratified, there is a chance that Joseph Spell may not have been acquitted of the crime he was accused of. We can look back and recognize that the Connecticut vs. Joseph Spell case was a steppingstone in breaking the racial barrier and achieving equality for African Americans.

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