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Gideon Vs Wainwright Essay, Research Paper

Gideon vs. Wainwright

In the Sixth Amendment, it is stated that, ?In all criminal prosecutions,

the accused shall enjoy the right to have the Assistance of Counsel for his

defense.? When first reading this phrase one might think that this right, that

which gives a person accused of a crime to have lawyers for his defense, is

common knowledge being that it is among the most basic rights given to the

public. However, its simple phrasing subjects the amendment to different

interpretations under different circumstances. Should the government provide

legal counsel if the accused lacks the funds to assemble a counsel for his

defense? Or, on the other hand, does this amendment set the responsibility of

gathering a defense for the accused even if he or she is too poor to?

The Supreme Court was faced with answering these questions in the case of

Gideon v. Wainwright. In the early sixties, Clarence Earl Gideon a slacker and

reprted gambler who had spent much of his life in and out of jail was arrested

in Florida. He was accused of breaking into a poolroom one night in an effort to

steal beer, Coke, and change from a vending machine. Gideon insisted that he was

innocent from the beginning. His trial began in court shortly after; and Gideon

told the Judge that he was not ready for the trial to begin because he had not

been able to afford for a defense attorney. He requested that the court appoint

one to represent him. The Judge told him he could not appoint an attorney to

represent him in the case because under Florida laws, the only time the Court

can appoint Counsel to represent a defendant is when that person is charged with

a capital offense. The trial began with Gideon controlling his defense, but his

attempts were ineffective as anyone could anticipate from a man with no legal

education or experience. The jury later convicted him of the charges and gave

Gideon the maximum five-year sentence.

In pursuit of an appeal, Gideon studied law books while serving out his

sentence in state prison. Gideon filed a petition that tried to repeal his

conviction and sentence on the basis that the court?s refusal to appoint

counsel denied him of rights identified in the Constitution. Gideon?s first

appeal to the State Supreme Court was denied, therefore Gideon appealed his case

to the United States Supreme Court where if the case was approved to be

considered the government would provide him a lawyer. After the Supreme Court

selected the case to be considered, Gideon presented his case before them with

the basis being that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated. This

argument was strongly supported by the Fourteenth Amendment that states ?No

State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or

immunities of citizens of the United States.? These arguments were considered

before the court in an attempt to earn an appeal, a new fair trial for Gideon.

The Supreme Court?s decision was made and they concluded to reverse Gideon?s

conviction because he was denied due process. This decision meant that Gideon

received a new trial with representation by a qualified lawyer.

In Gideon?s retrial, his court appointed attorney attempted to point the

blame of the crime to the witness from the crime scene that named Gideon as

guilty from day one. Gideon?s lawyer gave reasonable doubt to the reliability

of the chief witness and therefore gave reasonable doubt to the previous charge

of guilty. Gideon should have been acquitted of all charges because his lawyer

gave him fair representation and was able to prove that it could have been

someone else who committed the crime and the evidence presented against Gideon

in his first trial wasn?t as incriminating anymore.

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