Gideon v. Wainwright: The Right to Free Counsel

By Ron Fridell | Go to book overview

ONE
HOW IT ALL BEGAN

THE STRUGGLE BEGAN with a large envelope stuffed full of legal documents. Since this was a legal struggle, it was fought with words and ideas rather than physical weapons. But it was an intense struggle for freedom nonetheless.

The envelope was from Clarence Earl Gideon, an inmate of the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida. It was addressed to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Inside were three legal documents.


GIDEORR'S WRIT OF CERT

One was a writ of certiorari, or cert for short. A cert is a petition of appeal in a civil or criminal case. This cert involved a criminal case. It came from a prisoner, Gideon, who claimed that he was wrongly convicted of a crime. Gideon's writ asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case and reverse the conviction.

If the prisoner's appeal succeeds, he is no longer held to be guilty of the crime. But the lower court may choose to try him for that same crime again. Trying a person for the same crime is known as double jeopardy, and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution forbids it. But when the Supreme Court reverses an appealed conviction, it's as though the original trial never took place at all. The prisoner is back to square one, accused of the crime and

-11-

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Gideon v. Wainwright: The Right to Free Counsel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • One - How It All Began 11
  • Two - Gideon Gets a Lawyer 21
  • Three - A Look at the Past 31
  • Four - Betts V. Brady 44
  • Five - Beyond Betts 48
  • Six - The Briefs 56
  • Seven - Amicus Curiae 72
  • Eight - The Oral Argument 79
  • Nine - The Ruling 91
  • Ten - Reactions 103
  • Eleven - Gideon Today 109
  • Twelve - Gideon's Fate 116
  • Notes 125
  • Further Information 134
  • Bibliography 137
  • Index 139
  • About the Author 144
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