Case Background: Gideon v. Wainwright Clarence Earl Gideon was accused of breaking into a bar in Panama City, Florida. He was charged with a felony with the intent to commit a misdemeanor offense. At the trial, Gideon couldn’t afford a lawyer so he asked the judge to give him one. The court trial did not appoint him one. Gideon had to represent himself in trial.
He was found guilty and sentenced 5 years to prison. He filed a habeas corpus petition to court. And argued that the court’s decision violated his 6th amendment right to be represented by counsel. He then wrote a letter to the supreme court which agreed to hear his case. And determine whether the poor defendants should be appointed a lawyer in state criminal trails. The court considered these constitutional questions: Does the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel in criminal cases extend to felony defendants in state courts?Do the state courts have to follow the same “right to counsel” rule that the federal courts have to abide by?Relevant excerpts of the constitution: The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a fundamental right applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution’s due process clause, and requires that indigent criminal defendants be provided counsel at trial.
Relevant Amendments The Sixth Amendment provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”the Fourteenth Amendment requires appointment of counsel in a state court, just as the Sixth Amendment requires in a federal court.
Main arguments for Gideon: The sixth amendment grants his right of representation, as his case involved a felony. If Gideon had a lawyer he would have been successful in his case.The fouthteen amendment requires a fair trial and a poor person can’t be expected to know what a lawyer would.Main arguments for Wainwright:The precedent of the case Betts v. Brady, which denied counsel to defendants when prosecuted by a state, applied to Gideon v.
Wainwright. Under the laws of the state florida the court can only appoint a counsel to represent a defendant when that person is charged with a capital offense.The evidence showed gideon breaking and entering into the pool roomThe Court’s Decision:In 1963, Justice Hugo L. Black delivered the opinion of the 9-0 majority in favor of gideon.
The Supreme court said that the 6th amendment’s guarantee of counsel is a fundamental right, essential to a fair trial and applies the state due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. He was guaranteed the right to legal counsel for the criminal defendants in federal and state courts. Gideon was given another trial with an appointed lawyer and was relieved of the charges. Impact on society: The gideon case is very important as it created a right to counsel for all criminal defendants. Many people had their sentences overturned because of that.
A person with no legal background was no longer forced to defend themselves against crimes. Which was putting their freedom in danger because of their lack of understanding the law. The rule has helped to remove vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system. It further protects american societies.
It’s a big step toward achieving a fair trial. Allows a standard for courts, leveling the playing fields between the rich or poor.