Supreme Court’s ‘Gideon’ ruling at 60 and the right to counsel: In their own words

Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the justices unanimously affirmed a constitutional right to a lawyer for criminal defendants who could not afford one. Much has been written about the case, which overruled an earlier decision and forced states to create taxpayer-funded public defender offices. Movies and documentaries have also been made. Clarence Gideon was charged with breaking into a Panama City, Florida, pool hall on June 3, 1961. The place was vandalized, and money was stolen from a cash register. A witness later claimed he had seen Gideon leaving the business at 5:30 a.m. with a wine bottle and money in his pocket. SUPREME COURT REQUESTS EXTRA SECURITY FUNDING AFTER ALLEGED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON CONSERVATIVE JUSTICE Based on that account, he was charged with petty larceny and breaking and entering. He was denied a court-appointed lawyer in state court, represented himself, and was convicted. Here are some of the key moments of the case in the words of those involved: An appeal to the Florida Supreme Court was denied, so he launched another. SUPREME COURT COULD TAKE FIRST TRANSGENDER SPORTS CASE WITH APPEAL FROM WEST VIRGINIA SOCCER PLAYER SUPREME COURT DENIES PETITION FROM FLORIDA CITY TO TOSS ATHEISTS’ FIRST AMENDMENT SUIT OVER PRAYER VIGIL In the decades since this remarkable case – and Gideon’s retrial, at which he was found not guilty – public defender systems have been established in the states and strengthened over the decades. Additional court actions have expanded the right to counsel in juvenile and certain misdemeanor cases.
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