Gideon's Trumpet

Topics: Gideon v. Wainwright, Supreme Court of the United States, United States Constitution Pages: 15 (5160 words) Published: December 17, 2012
Chapter 1 describes Gideon�s claim to the Supreme Court (hereafter simply the Court).Gideon petitioned the Court in forma pauperis, in the manner of a pauper.An in forma pauperis petition exempts indigent plaintiffs without having to pay the normal fees associated with the petitioning the Court and also provides for wide discretion in the filing of affidavits for the Court.Lewis states that the Court�s �Rule 53 allows an impoverished person to file just one copy of a petition, instead of the forty ordinarily required, and states that the Court will make �due allowance� for technical errors so long as there is substantial compliance� (4).

From his initial filing to the Court, it appears as though Gideon made a substantial effort to comply with the standards set by the Court in regard to in forma pauperis petitions.Gideon�s application was written in pencil, but he included the affidavit required to proceed in forma pauperis and he appeared to have filed within the required 90 days of the lower court decision.In his petition, Gideon also provided the Court with a copy of his habeas corpus petition that he filed to the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court�s rejection of that petition.

In his petition, Lewis states that Gideon provided little, if any, personal information.Lewis describes Gideon as a destitute man who bore the marks of a destitute life.Gideon was 51 years old at the time of his petition to the Court.He had been convicted on four previous felonies.According to Lewis, hardly anyone would describe Gideon as a violent man; rather, Gideon was a man who found great difficulty in settling down and working to live.Thus, Gideon often turned to crime.

In his filing to the Court, Gideon�s case was originally titled Gideon v. Cochran.Gideon�s primary submission to the Court was a 5-page petition for writ of certiorari, which is a petition asking the Court to bring the case up from the lower court.Gideon had been convicted of breaking and entering into the Bay Harbor Poolroom in Panama City, Florida.The crux of Gideon�s petition to the Court was that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that �No state shall�deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,� had been violated when the trial court had denied Gideon�s request for an attorney.In Gideon�s petition to the Court, he states, �[w]hen at the time of the petitioners trial he ask the lower court for the aid of counsel, the court refused the aid. Petitioner told the court that this Court made decision to the effect that all citizens tried for a felony crime should have aid of counsel.The lower court ignored this plea� (8).Altogether Gideon mentioned a right to counsel approximately six times.However, he never mentioned the case of Betts v. Brady.

Betts v. Brady would prove to be a critical, if not the most critical, aspect of Gideon�s claim. Without Betts Gideon really would have had no claim before the Court.Betts was precedent and it stood to limit the right of counsel except in special circumstances.In Betts, Justice Roberts for the Court stated that the Fourteenth Amendment did not provide a universal right to counsel in all felony cases.Instead, the Court said that a defendant was only to be provided with counsel in such cases as when the lack of counsel would result in �a denial of fundamental fairness.�The precedent of Betts was to be applied on a case-by-case basis.Although Gideon did not realize it, he was asking for one the great occasions in which the Court reverses itself.As Lewis states, �[h]e was asking the Supreme Court to change its mind� (11).

Chapter 2

In Chapter 2, Lewis describes the Court as institution.Particularly, he focuses on the rules, both stated and unstated, that the Court follows in determining which cases it will hear and its holding in those cases.In order to stay within the scope of the task at hand, I shall seek to address these topics as they are...
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