In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that counsel must be provided for indigents accused of serious crimes.
Clarence Earl Gideon had convictions for petty crimes as a young man but no criminal convictions when he was arrested for breaking into a poolroom to steal coins and beverages. He requested an attorney be appointed for him, but the judge declined because Florida state law provided court- appointed attorneys only in capital cases. Although Gideon represented himself perhaps better than the average layperson, he was convicted and sentenced as a habitual criminal to five years in prison. While in prison, he filed an in forma pauperis (pauper’s) petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Abe Fortas's brilliant success in representing Gideon contributed to his appointment to the Supreme Court two years later.
In Betts v. Brady
When the case was returned to Florida, a newly appointed local attorney successfully attacked the prosecution’s case and demonstrated the wisdom of the Court’s requirement by showing that the most likely perpetrators of the crime were the very witnesses the prosecution had called against Gideon. Gideon laid the ground work for the far more controversial Escobedo v. Illinois
Betts v. Brady
Counsel, right to
Due process, procedural
Escobedo v. Illinois
Indigent criminal defendants
Miranda v. Arizona
Powell v. McCormick