Gideon v. Wainwright is a 1963 Supreme Court case that established the right of all criminal defendants to an attorney, even if they cannot afford one. It is considered to be a landmark case in establishing the rights of the accused. It is one of the fifteen required Supreme Court cases on the AP United States Government and Politics exam.
Facts of the Case
Clarence Earl Gideon was accused of breaking into a pool hall in Panama City, Florida, and stealing money from the cigarette machine and cash register. He was too poor to afford an attorney and at the time, Florida law only provided an attorney to defendants accused of capital offenses (offenses that are subject to the death penalty). Gideon represented himself in court and was found guilty of the crime.
While in prison, Gideon did some research in the prison library and became convinced that he had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. He petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari and the Court agreed to hear his appeal.
Gideon's case was re-tried in a Florida court, where he was found Not Guilty with the help of a court-appointed attorney.
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