Gideon Vs. Wainwright Essay

Gideon Vs. Wainwright Essay

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United States Supreme Court cases are argued and decided on Constitutional grounds. All arguments and decisions are based on interpretations of the original Constitution and, more often, on Constitutional amendments.
     GIDEON v. WAINWRIGHT
     In June 1961, Clarence Gideon was arrested and charged with breaking and entering in Bay Harbor. He was tried in a Florida Circuit Court in August 1961. Gideon stated in Court that he was unable to afford a lawyer and asked the Judge to appoint one for him. The Judge said he was sorry but he could not do that, because the laws of Florida called for appointment of counsel only when a defendant was charged with a capital offense [where the death penalty might be imposed]. When the Florida courts denied his claim, he went to the Supreme Court. In his prison he submitted a petition, handwritten in pencil, arguing that Florida had ignored a rule laid down by the Supreme Court: “ that all citizens tried for a felony crime should have aid of counsel.” Oral arguments were heard on January 15,1962 and the decision was announced on March 18, 1963.
     However, Gideon was wrong. The rule applied by the Supreme Court at that time was in fact exactly the opposite. The Constitution, it had held, did not guarantee free counsel to all felony defendants that are unable to retain their own. Since1942, when Betts v. Brady was decided by a divided Court, the problem of defend...

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