Landmark Court Case: Gideon vs. Wainwright

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  • June 3rd, 1961 at 5:30 am, the Bay Harbor Poolroom was broken into. During the police investigation, a witness pointed Mr. Gideon as the main suspect. He was arrested and charged with breaking and entering with the intent to commit a misdemeanor.
  • Clarence Earl Gideon, the jury has decided you're guilty. Your sentence is 5 years in prison.
  • Gideon had no attorney during the trial and was denied his request for a court appointed counsel for him; appointment of counsel is only allowed for capital punishments. Gideon was unable to properly defend himself.
  • Gideon  filed a petition to the Supreme Court  to resolve the question  of the right of counsel (under the 6th Amendment and 14th Due Process Clause) applying to the state courts. His case was heard on  August 5th, 1963.
  • We find that Gideon's denied request for counsel does violate his rights and that his trial was unfair.
  • By ruling in favor of Gideon, the Court overruled Betts vs. Brady; the refusal to appoint counsel for felony charges didn't violate the 6th and 14th Amendment. Now it is a fundamental right for people to have an attorney to ensure they have a fair trial.
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