Unit 7 Seminar Writing Assignment Gideon v. Wainwright CJ101-23AU: Introduction to the Criminal Justice System CJ100_23AU Andrea Lambert Professor: Sheila Stephens The movie, Gideon’s Trumpet is based on the book by the same name written by Anthony Lewis. It is the true story of Clarence Earl Gideon who, in 1963, was charged in a Florida State Court with robbing a pool hall, a noncapital crime.
Clarence Gideon, who had no money for an attorney asked the court to appoint counsel for him. The court denied his request on the grounds that state law requires that counsel only need be provided if the defendant is indigent and being charged with a capital crime. Clarence had no choice but to defend himself; ill prepared and having no knowledge of the law, he was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in a state prison. I feel the subject was handled very well.
I found it to be an incredibly interested case and it seems to me that both sides being represented by counsel in a court proceeding is such an obvious right to a fair trial that I find it hard to believe it wasn’t until 1963 for the right of council for all defendants to become law. Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaking and entering following the robbery of a pool hall in Panama City in 1961, when he was spotted a few hours after the crime with his pockets bulging with change and carrying a pint of wine.
Unable to afford an attorney, Gideon requested that the court appoint legal representation for him, as stated in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. Gideon was denied counsel because Florida’s courts needed only to appoint defendants with attorneys in capital cases. Gideon was forced to defend himself and was subsequently sentenced to 5 years in state prison.
While in prison, Gideon spent hours in the library researching law books, he filed a habeas corpus petition (for release from unjust imprisonment) to the Florida Supreme Court, claiming that his conviction was unconstitutional because the state court’s failure to appoint counsel for him violates his right to a fair trial and due process of law as protected by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. After the Florida Supreme Court denied his petition, Gideon appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which reviewed his case in 1963. The Court assigned a prominent Washington, D. C. attorney, Abe Fortas, to represent him.
Fortas himself later became a Supreme Court Justice. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the right to counsel was of a fundamental nature and Gideon had a right to be represented by court-appointed counsel. In doing so, the Court over-ruled its previous decision in Betts v. Brady and reversed the decision of the Florida State Supreme Court, which had denied relief to the petitioner. The decision sets to rest any uncertainty about the fundamental nature of the right of counsel provided in the Sixth Amendment and its obligatory application on the States as granted by the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.
This landmark case ensured the right for all Americans, regardless of their economic background, to have access to an attorney in a criminal case. The impact on the justice system was unprecedented. Almost overnight, public defenders, whose sole purpose was to defend the poor, were appointed all over the state of Florida and throughout the country. After the ruling Robert F. Kennedy said, “If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in his prison cell . . . to write a letter to the Supreme Court . . . he vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter, the Court did look into his case . . . and the whole course of American legal history has been changed. ” In 1984 the Justice Department estimated that two- thirds of the American population is served by the public defenders system. Gideon v. Wainwright ensured that everyone receives “due process “which is essentially a guarantee of basic fairness. The two types of courts that function in the American Justice system are the state court system and the federal court system.
The state court system is organized as a hierarchy and includes superior courts (which are trial courts) and a state supreme court. Judges in the state courts are typically elected. The state courts interpret and apply state laws. They help resolve conflicts with regards to legal business—traffic offenses, divorce, wills and estates, buying and selling property. State courts also punish crimes that violate state law and laws that effect citizens on a daily basis are state and local laws and over 95% of cases are heard in state courts. It is the job of the state courts to interpret those laws.
The federal court system was created by the constitution and federal courts have jurisdiction over cases under the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties. There are three branches of the federal court system, judicial, legislative and executive branches. Their rulings protect rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Federal courts interpret and apply the law to resolve disputes. Under the constitution the President appoints federal judges, unlike state courts where they are elected. Both of these systems are an intricate part of the judicial system and neither is completely independent of the other.
Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory TReferences Schmalleger, Frank (2007) Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the Twenty-First Century http://www. landmarkcases. org/gideon/home. html http://law. jrank. org/pages/12948/Gideon-v-Wainwright. html http://topics. law. cornell. edu/wex/due_process http://www. uscourts. gov/library/internationalbook-fedcts2. pdf http://www. uscourts. gov/UFC99. pdf http://www. civilrights. org/judiciary/courts/difference-federal-local-courts. html -fedcts2. pdfhttp://www. uscourts. gov/library/internationalbook-fedcts2. pdf