Office of the Territorial Public Defender, U.S. Virgin Islands

// Clarence Earl Gideon

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Without the means to hire an attorney to file an appeal, Gideon wrote his own petition and filed it in the Florida Supreme Court. He argued that the failure of the trial court to appoint counsel for his defense denied him the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Florida Supreme Court denied his petition.

Undaunted, Gideon petitioned the United States Supreme Court, and the Court agreed to appoint counsel to represent him. The Supreme Court found that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is applicable to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. According to the Supreme Court, the trial court violated Gideon’s due process rights when it failed to appoint counsel. The Court recognized the obvious truth that without counsel for the defense there can be no assurance of a fair trial. Thus, the justices reversed Gideon’s conviction on March 18, 1963, and sent his case back to the Florida Supreme Court. The state of Florida retried Gideon, but an appointed attorney represented him at the second trial. The jury acquitted him.

Celebrating over 50 years of the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), guaranteeing your right to counsel.