The following is an excerpt from my latest piece on the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court case which established the right to counsel for indigent defendants. This was published on March 14 in USA Today:
On June 3, 1961, a popular pool hall in Panama City, Fla., was burglarized. Clarence Gideon, a 51-year-old drifter, was charged. Unable to afford an attorney, Gideon claimed the Constitution guaranteed him the right to counsel. A state court disagreed, and he was found guilty.
Undeterred, Gideon filed an appeal written in pencil on prison stationery to the U.S. Supreme Court. On March 18, 1963, a unanimous court found in his favor.
Fifty years have since passed, yet the promise of the Gideon ruling remains unfulfilled. Poverty remains the greatest impediment to a fair trial in America.
To continue reading, click here for the full article on USA Today.