Did the court make the right decision in Gideon v Wainwright?

2 Answer

  • Answer:

    Yes, it did, because in Gideon v Wainwright the Supreme Court guaranteed the access to legal representation to all accused in criminal trials, thus complying with the right to defense in court established in the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.


    The Supreme Court ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) produced a fundamental change in the United States as it required the establishment of a nationwide system of public defenders.

    Clarence Earl Gideon (1910-1972), when accused of having committed a crime, thought of claiming legal assistance because he lacked legal knowledge, which was denied by the Florida courts, alleging that the laws of that State restricted that right to cases in which the death penalty could be imposed. In this way he had to represent himself and invoked, in an unsuccessful way, his innocence, being sentenced to five years in prison.

    From the state penitentiary, and making use of the jail library, Mr. Gideon appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that his constitutional right to the defense guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment had been undermined. The Supreme Court admitted his case and assigned him as a lawyer, for the oral hearing, to Abraham Fortas, who would later be judge of the Court itself, between 1965 and 1969.

    In the famous Gideon v. Wainwright of March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that States were required, by mandate of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, to provide legal assistance in criminal matters to all persons, and not only to those who faced cases of capital punishment, who lacked resources to pay their defense.

    Following the re-trial, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, Gideon was acquitted.

  • Answer:

    You should have identified whether the ruling correctly applied the protections of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the case. You might also include ideas about how the case affected the trial process and increased the rights of the accused.

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