Gideon vs. Wainright

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Gideon v. Wainwright, Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution Pages: 2 (780 words) Published: November 14, 2007
Gideon v. Wainwright
Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), is a landmark case in United States Supreme Court history. In the case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution to provide lawyers in criminal cases for defendants unable to afford their own attorneys. Facts: In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon had been charged with burglary for breaking into a pool hall in Panama City, Florida and taking beer, wine, and change from the vending machines. He appeared in court too poor to afford counsel, whereupon the following conversation took place: The COURT: Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint Counsel to represent you in this case. Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the Court can appoint Counsel to represent a Defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense. I am sorry, but I will have to deny your request to appoint Counsel to defend you in this case. GIDEON: The United States Supreme Court says I am entitled to be represented by Counsel. Gideon had been forced therefore to act as his own counsel, and conducted a defense of himself in court, emphasizing his innocence in the case. Nevertheless, the jury returned a guilty verdict, sentencing him to serve five years in the state penitentiary. From his prison cell, at Florida State Prison, making use of the prison library, and writing in pencil on prison stationary, Gideon appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a suit against the Secretary to the Florida Department of Corrections, Louie L. Wainwright. His argument was that he had been denied counsel and therefore his Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated without due process of law. The court assigned him a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney, Abe Fortas (later a Supreme Court justice from 1965–1969) of the law firm Arnold & Porter. The decision was announced on 18 March 1963; the opinion of the Court was delivered by Justice Hugo...
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