n 1961, when he was fifty-one, Earl Gideon was arrested, prosecuted, denied counsel, and sent to jail for breaking and entering with the intent to commit petty larceny. Gideon challenged national law and criminal prosecution standards, and eventually helped establish a more just criminal system.
Gideon was sentenced to five years in state prison. He applied to the Florida Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, but it was turned down.
Gideon had some knowledge of the workings of the Supreme Court due to a previous petitioning attempt and so he appealed to the high court in forma pauperis. He claimed that Florida's refusal to appoint him counsel violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law.
Gideon requested an attorney be appointed to him. Abe Fortas was assigned to him, for the purpose of conducting his case to the Supreme Court, to argue for overturning the twenty-year-old Betts v. Brady ruling (the stare decisis) that the state must appoint counsel only in capital cases and under special circumstances. …show more content…
Earl Gideon was a man of average intelligence and virtually no finance, yet despite his best efforts, and the best efforts of the state court, he was unable to effectively present his own defense. He went on to point out that the Supreme Court's "case-by- case supervision . . . of state criminal proceedings" as established in Betts v. Brady, went against the ideas of federalism, and that a more absolute ruling was
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