Gideon v. Wainwright

372 U.S. 335 (1963)


Gideon (D) was charged in Florida state court with having broken and entered a poolroom with intent to commit a misdemeanor (a felony under Florida law). D appeared in court with neither money nor a lawyer. D asked the court to appoint counsel for him, claiming that the United States Supreme Court said that he was entitled to it. The court denied him counsel, and D proceeded to defend himself. D made an opening statement to the jury, cross-examined the State's witnesses, presented witnesses in his own defense, declined to testify himself, and made a short argument 'emphasizing his innocence to the charge contained in the Information filed in this case.' The jury found him guilty. D was sentenced to serve five years in the state prison. D appealed with a habeas corpus petition in state supreme court, claiming that the trial court's refusal to appoint him counsel violated his constitutional rights. All relief was denied. D was proceeding in forma pauperis and petitioned the Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court appointed counsel to D and granted him certiorari.