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Due Process of Law

90 min

Guiding Questions

  • What are some specific elements of due process in criminal cases, and what are the landmark cases by which the Supreme Court interpreted and affirmed those protections?


  • Students will comprehend elements of due process protected by the U.S. Constitution.
  • Students will analyze four landmark cases as examples of due process protections.

  • Bill of Rights
  • Sixth Amendment
  • Eighth Amendment
  • due process
  • republic
  • Constitution
  • Parliament
  • John Adams
  • property
  • justice
  • liberty
  • rule of law
  • Magna Carta
  • Fourth Amendment
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • arbitrary
  • Fifth Amendment

Have students activate and expand their context knowledge by reading one of the two background essays provided. Depending on your students’ level of background and their reading ability, advanced students would use Handout A: Rights of the Accused Essay by Dennis Goldford, and on-level students would use Due Process of Law Introductory Essay. All students should use Handout B: Due Process Amendments as a reference throughout the activities.

Have students work alone or in pairs/small groups to fill in the first two columns of a KWL Chart: What do you know about the due process system in the U.S. Constitution?

Break students into four groups (Case Study Groups). Assign one case handout to each of the groups.

Using the Due Process Background Essay you assigned along with Handout B: Due Process Amendments for reference, have students read the case background and opinions for their assigned Supreme Court case and complete Handout G: Case Briefing Sheet.

After each group is finished, create new groups (Case Summary Groups), jigsaw style, with at least one member from each Case Study Group. Each member should explain the facts of their case to the other group members. Group members should complete Handout H: Case Summary Sheet.

Hold a class discussion using these questions: 

  • Compare and contrast the case you briefed to the cases you heard How are they similar? How are they different?
  • What are the due process protections in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or other amendments?
  • What other examples of due process protections or infringements can you think of from your own life?

Complete KWL chart – focused on the learned sections.

Students need to write a written response explaining what due process is and how it functions in American government.

Students can write an essay in which they take a specific court case and discuss how due process was analyzed and interpreted in that case.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

The Structure of the National Government

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