• In the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the right of an individual to legal counsel, even in cases not involving capital offenses. Clarence Earl Gideon was convicted of burglary and sentenced to five years imprisonment in a case in which the trial judge had refused his request for counsel. As an inmate, Gideon wrote and filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, asking for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that he had been denied legal counsel and thus imprisoned illegally. The Florida Supreme Court confirmed the earlier circuit court ruling, denying Gideon’s appeal. In 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the ruling of the Florida court, thereby establishing the principle that state courts were required to provide defendants in criminal cases with legal counsel. The then U.S. attorney general, and later senator, Robert F. Kennedy described the case as having changed the course of American legal history. This document is the decision of the court when the case was retried (this time with representation for Gideon) five months after the Supreme Court decision. Gideon was acquitted.


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  • Tallahassee, Florida



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  • 10 pages


  • Supreme Court Case files, 1825-2009. Case No. 31116. Clarence Earl Gideon, Petitioner, vs. Louis L. Wainwright, Director, Department of Corrections, Respondent (Opinion filed May 15, 1963).