Gideon vs. Wainwright By Jack Luo and Hank Gregg
Origins • Clarence Earl Gideon, breaks into a pool house in Panama City, Florida with intent of committing a misdemeanor offense. • He is without funds, thus requests a lawyer, and is denied this right due to a Florida state law prohibiting this right in all cases except for capital cases. • Due to this state law, Gideon was forced to go through his trial defending himself, ultimately being given prison time.
Origins • Gideon was sent to state prison to serve five years shortly after his trial. • In the cell, Gideon wrote a letter to Supreme Court to sue the warden, H.G. Cochran. Cochran later retired and was replaced with Louie L. Wainwright. • In the letter, Gideon argued that his Sixth Amendment right, supported by Fourteenth Amendment right, had been violated by the State Court.
Related Amendments • The Sixth Amendment • Speedy and Public Trial • Right to an Attorney if necessary • Right to retain counsel • Fourteenth Amendment • Fair Trial / Due Process • Equal right for all
Previous Case: Betts v. Brady In 1942, Brady was sued for robbery in Carroll County, Maryland. Due to the lack of funds, Brady was not able to afford a lawyer. He requested that counsel be appointed to him, but his request had been denied. At last, Brady was sent to prison.
Constitutional Question • Does the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel in criminal cases extend to felony defendants in state courts?
The Supreme Court Decision In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court decided that it was consistent with the Constitution to require state courts to appoint attorneys for defendants who could not afford to obtain counsel on their own. The Supreme Court also assigned Gideon Abe Fortas, the future Supreme Court justice, to be his attorney.
Epilogue In the retrial, the former evidence had been overturn. Gideon was set free.