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Gideon Vs. Wainwright

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Gideon vs. Wainwright became one of the most important cases in America's history. This case challenged the sayings of the 6th Amendment; it asked if the 6th Amendment's right to counsel in criminal cases extend to felony defendants in state courts.

Clarence Earl Gideon was an unlikely hero. He was a man with an eighth-grade education who ran away from home when he was about 14. He spent a lot of his early adult life as a drifter, spending time in and out of prisons for small, petty, but all of which were non violent, crimes.

Gideon was charged in Florida state court with a felony. He was believed to have broken into and entered a poolroom with the intent to commit a misdemeanor offense. He was tried in the Bay County Circuit Court. When he appeared in court without a lawyer, Gideon requested that the court appoint one for him. According to the law in Florida an attorney may only be appointed to a defendant in capital cases, so the court did not appoint one for him. At trial, Gideon represented himself – he had made an opening statement to the jury, cross-examined the prosecution’s witnesses, presented witnesses in his own defense, declined to testify himself, and made arguments emphasizing his innocence. Despite his efforts, the jury still found Gideon guilty and he was sentenced to five years in prison. Gideon filed a habeas corpus petition in the Florida Supreme Court and argued that the trial court's decision violated his constitutional right to be represented by counsel. The Florida Supreme Court denied any habeas corpus relief to Gideon.

Gideon next filed a handwritten petition to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court agreed to hear the case in order to resolve the question of whether the right to counsel guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution applies to defendants in state court as well as a federal court.

Justice Hugo Black was the one who delivered



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