Defendant Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaken and entering a poolroom with intent to commit a misdemeanor. Defendant was denied request for appointed counsel on the grounds that under the laws of Florida only a defendant charged with a capital offense was entitled to such an appointment. Defendant was without funds. Defendant conducted his own defense. Defendant was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of five years in the state prison. Defendant filed in the Supreme Court of Florida the present habeas corpus petition, attacking his conviction on the ground that his federal constitutional rights were violated by the trial court's refusal to appoint counsel. The appeal was denied by the Florida Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. Court appointed counsel to represent Gideon and requested both sides to discuss in their briefs and oral arguments the following "should this Court holding Bett v. Bradley, 316 U.S. 455, be considered". Issue
The issue was whether or not defendant constitutional rights were violated by the Florida trial court. Defendant argued that he was denied the rights of the 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments of the Bill of Rights. The issues in the Gideon v. Wainwright case has plagued the United States court before. In Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455, defendant claimed that he had been unconstitutionally denied the right to have counsel appointed to assist him are very similar to the Gideon to the facts upon which Gideon here bases his federal constitutional claim. Defendant's federal constitutional right to counsel in a state court has been an on going source of controversy and litigation in both state and federal courts.