Gideon 50th Anniversary & Letter Drop #7

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision Gideon v Wainwright. On Tuesday evening, April 30th a reenactment of the oral arguments will be held at the University of Washington School of Law.

The evening starts with a reception from 6 to 7 in Room 133 in William H. Gates Hall on the University of Washington campus. The reenactment will follow at 7 pm. Participants will include members of the current Washington State Supreme Court, several Washington state lawyers, and is hosted by Jacqueline McMurtrie, faculty at the University of Washington School of Law.

The case originated in Florida. Gideon appeared without funds and without counsel. He asked the Court to appoint counsel for him but was denied on the ground that the state law permitted appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in capital cases only. Gideon conducted his own defense but was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. Gideon then applied to the Florida Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. The State Supreme Court denied all relief.

While in prison, he then sent a handwritten appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court. The court accepted the case and held that the right of an indigent defendant in a criminal trial to have the assistance of counsel is a fundamental right essential to a fair trial. Gideon’s conviction without the assistance of counsel violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

The U. S. Supreme Court reversed and cause remanded. At his retrial, Gideon’s lawyer picked apart eyewitness testimony from the first trial and Gideon was aquitted after one hour of deliberation.

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