The Bay Harbor Pool Room (a pool hall/bar) in Pensacola Florida was broken into on June 3, 1961. The perpetrators broke a window unlocked a door entering the bar robbing the bar of $5 in change and a few bottles of beer and soda. Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested shortly thereafter at a tavern. A nearby resident, Henry Cook, claimed that he saw Gideon leave the bar with a bottle of wine and his pockets filled with coins, make a phone call, get in a cab and leave. Gideon denied the charges (Wikipedia, 2013).
Gideon was born in Hannibal Missouri on August 30, 1910. After completing the 8th grade, he ran away from home beginning a life as a drifter. By the age of sixteen he had compiled a profile of petty crime spent a year in a reformatory for burglary before he found work at a shoe factory. At the age of eighteen, Missouri police arrested Gideon for robbery, burglary, and larceny. The court sentenced him to ten years in prison but he only served three. For the next thirty years, he lived a life of poverty and crime. Gideon’s crime record included prison terms at Leavenworth Kansas for stealing government property, in Texas for theft, and again in Missouri for stealing, larceny, and escape. In between prison terms, he managed to get married four times; he had six children, managed to stay out of jail until his arrest in 1961. Given his crime record and proximity to the pool hall, Gideon was the perfect suspect for this crime (Wikipedia, 2013).
Gideon appearing before the Florida Court requested that the court appoint him an attorney. His trial judge Robert McCrary, Jr. denied this request. According to Florida State Law, the court could only appoint an attorney to an indigent defendant in capital cases....
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...eon did write that letter; the court did look into his case; he was retried with the help of competent counsel; found not guilty and released from prison after 2 years of punishment for a crime he did not commit. And the whole course of legal history has been changed. (Wikipedia, 2013, para. 16)
It has been 50 years since the Gideon v. Wainwright case. From a drifter, to a petty criminal, to the Supreme Court, Gideon opened doors for the poor man in the system. Because of this case, indigent defendants have access to legal counsel (public defenders), if they prove they cannot afford an attorney on their own.
Oyez. (2013, December 3). Gideon v. Wainwright. Retrieved from Oyez: http:www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1962/1962_155
Wikipedia. (2013). Clarence Earl Gideon. Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Earl_Gideon