Jason Risner Photography // Wikicommons
Year ratified: 1791
The Sixth Amendment contains many protections that lay the groundwork for the American criminal justice system and the rights it guarantees to the accused. Among them are the right to be informed of the charges against them, the right to confront accusers, the right to call witnesses, the right to legal counsel, and the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury.
On May 23, 2022, the Supreme Court decided that a federal court cannot consider new evidence outside of the state-court record in deciding whether the state violated an individual's right to effective assistance of counsel at trial under the Sixth Amendment. The decision, handed down by a 6-3 majority and written by Justice Clarence Thomas, concerned two cases in which people were sentenced to death despite receiving constitutionally ineffective counsel during their respective trials.
The ruling does not revert the protections provided by the Sixth Amendment; however, it weakens them, as individuals who received inadequate counsel in trial and/or post-trial conviction proceedings no longer have recourse to appeal their verdicts to a federal court on that basis. In its dissent, the court's minority stated its belief that, as a result of the ruling, "the Sixth Amendment's guarantee is now an empty one."