POL 123 Survival Guide
10 Practices That Will
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Carefully Brief All Opinions
• GIDEON v. WAINWRIGHT
• U.S. Supreme Court (1963)
• ILLUSTRATION: The 6th Amendment right to have counsel when charged with a crime.
• FACTS: Gideon was arrested for a non-capital felony.
• PRIOR PROCEEDINGS: The State of Florida prosecuted Gideon. At trial, Gideon claimed
indulgency and asked the court to appoint an attorney to represent him. The Court denied his
request based on Florida law that only allows court appointed attorneys for Capital offenses. D
represented himself and was convicted by a jury and sentenced to prison. While in prison, Gideon
made a habeas corpus petition to the Florida Supreme Court claiming that the 6th Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution entitles criminal defendants to counsel. The Florida S.C. denied relief and
Gideon then Petitioned the U.S. for a Writ of Certiorari. It was granted.
• ISSUE/HOLDING: Does the 6th and 14th Amendment entitle indigent criminal defendants with the
right to court appointed counsel? YES.
• RATIONALE: An early U.S. Supreme court decision (Betts v. Brady) had decided that indigent
criminal defendants did not have the right to court appointed counsel in non-capital offenses, but
the Supreme Court decided that it was time to overturn the Betts v. Brady decision. Due Process
require fundamental fairness in court proceedings and the role of counsel is essential to this
fairness. The State provides well trained prosecuting attorneys to represent the interests of the
people and defendants with resources always get the best Defense counsel possible. Our adversary
system requires that both sides do their best and out of that comes fairness. An indigent defendant
is not a “fair fight,” and the 14th Amendment requires that the States provide fairness (due process).
Conviction reversed. New trial with appointed counsel ordered.
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