Clarence Earl Gideon was charged in a Florida stat
e court with having broken and entered a poolroom with intent to commit a misdemeanor. Appearing in court without funds and without a lawyer, Gideon asked the Florida state court to appoint counsel for him, whereupon the following troubles took place. The only way Gideon would be appointed a lawyer if it was a capitol offense. After his conviction, Gideon filed in the Supreme Court of Florida the present habeas corpus petition, attacking his conviction on the grounds that his federal constitutional rights were violated by the trial court’s refusal to appoint counsel. The court, without opinion, denied relief.
After going back to trial the Supreme Court found in favor of Gideon. In doing so it declared that all defendants in felony cases have the right to an attorney. Justice Hugo Black, stated that the court was returning too…old precedents, souder we believe than the new. In a opinion by Black, expressing the views of seven members of the Court, it was held that the Sixth Amendment’s provision that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense was made obligatory upon the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed, overruling Betts v. Brady, wherein it had been held that due process of law does not require that in every case, regardless of circumstances, an indigent accused must be furnished counsel by the state. Gideon recieved a new trial with a lawyer and the jury acquitted him.
Can people afford lawyers, most poverty stricken people can’t? Gideon was a poor man who could’t pay a lawyer to help him in his case, so he was considered a layman at his trial. Most people don’t know of Clarence Earl Gideon or realize how much his case effects us in our everyday life. Gideon’s case with the Supreme Court of the United States shows in the meranda rights, and in our court rooms everyday. Remember this, if you can’t afford a lawyer, and the courts appoint you one, it’s because Clarence Earl Gideon made that happen.
Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)