Gideon v. Wainwright, case decided in 1963 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Clarence Earl Gideon was convicted of a felony in a Florida court. He had defended himself after being denied a request for free counsel. The Supreme Court, in overturning his conviction, held that the right to counsel, guaranteed in federal trials by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, is fundamental to a fair trial. State failure to provide counsel for a defendant charged with a felony violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The decision was one of many by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren that protected the rights of accused criminals and extended the guarantees in the Bill of Rights to state actions. The holding was expanded in 1972 to require counsel for any defendant who would spend even one day in jail if found guilty.
See A. Lewis, Gideon's Trumpet (1964).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.