Briefcase

Briefcase: Gideon v. Wainwright

Host: Dean Leonard Baynes

In a new ongoing segment on BriefcaseDean Leonard Baynes with the University of Houston Law Center looks at famous Supreme Court cases thru history.

“A key principle in American law is that criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to counsel, even if they can’t afford one – but this has not always been the case.”

“In 1963, Clarence Earl Gideon went before the Supreme Court, and claimed his criminal conviction was void because he had not received representation.”

“Charged with breaking and entering, Gideon couldn’t afford to hire counsel. The trial court refused his request for a lawyer, stating that right was only available to indigents in capital cases. Without the benefit of counsel, Gideon was convicted – but not deterred.”

“In his appeal, Gideon argued that the trial court’s refusal violated his 6th Amendment right. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed. Going forward, criminal defendants unable to afford counsel would have that opportunity and the full protection of the Constitution.”

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