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 …show more content…
Alabama, and overruled Betts v. Brady, which allowed selective application of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel to the states, itself previously binding only in federal cases. Instead, the court held that the right to the assistance of counsel was a fundamental right, essential for a fair trial, thereby emphasizing the procedural safeguards which were needed for due process of law. In this sense, the court ruled specifically that no one, regardless of wealth, education or class, should be charged with a crime and then be forced to face his accusers in court without the guidance of counsel. All of the other justices concurred in the judgment.
The court remanded the case to the Supreme Court of Florida for "further action not inconsistent with this decision." Gideon was then retried: represented by W. Fred Turner, his appointed counsel in this second trial, he was acquitted.
Gideon v. Wainwright was one of a series of Supreme Court decisions which confirmed the right of defendants in criminal proceedings to counsel during trial, on appeal, and in the subsequent cases of Massiah v. United States 377 U.S. 201 (1964) and Miranda v. Arizona 384 U.S. 436 (1966), even during police interrogation.