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One Man Can Make a Difference

On January 15, 1963, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Gideon vs. Wainwright. This was one of the most important cases in history. It all began in 1961 in Panama City, Florida when the police arrested Clarence Earl Gideon. He was accused of breaking into a pool hall and stealing money from vending machines. When he was first brought before a judge to be arraigned, he asked the Court to appoint an attorney to represent him because he couldn't afford one. The judge told him that under Florida Law, lawyers could only be appointed when someone was charged with a capital offense such as murder.

When the case went to trial, Gideon did his best to defend himself, he made an opening statement and called witnesses and cross examined the State's witnesses. He made a short closing argument in which he told the jury that he was innocent. Nonetheless, he was convicted on August 4, 1961 and was sentenced to five (5) years in prison. He did not have the money to

hire an attorney but he filed an appeal on his own. He argued that the trial court's failure to appoint counsel for him, denied him the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. His petition was denied by the Florida Supreme Court. Despite the road blocks that had been thrown in his path, Gideon persisted and he petitioned the United States Supreme Court and the Court agreed to appoint counsel to represent him. The Supreme Court found that the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel is applicable to the State's of the Union because of the l41h Amendment's Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court said that the trial court in Gideon's case violated his Due Process Rights when it failed to appoint a lawyer. The Court recognized the obvious truth that without counsel, there really can not be a fair trial. Therefore, the Supreme Court Justices reversed Gideon's conviction on March 18, 1963 and sent his case back to Florida. He was retried in Florida with an appointed lawyer and at the second trial, the jury acquitted Gideon. He had maintained all along that he was innocent. This case points out the obvious: one man can make a difference!

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Davis & Davis Attorneys at Law

Davis & Davis Attorneys At Law