The Bay Harbor Pool Room (a pool hall/bar) in Pensacola Florida was broken into on June 3, 1961. The perpetrators broke a window unlocked a door entering the bar robbing the bar of $5 in change and a few bottles of beer and soda. Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested shortly thereafter at a tavern. A nearby resident, Henry Cook, claimed that he saw Gideon leave the bar with a bottle of wine and his pockets filled with coins, make a phone call, get in a cab and leave. Gideon denied the charges (Wikipedia, 2013).
Gideon was born in Hannibal Missouri on August 30, 1910. After completing the 8th grade, he ran away from home beginning a life as a drifter. By the age of sixteen he had compiled a profile of petty crime spent a year in a reformatory for burglary before he found work at a shoe factory. At the age of eighteen, Missouri police arrested Gideon for robbery, burglary, and larceny. The court sentenced him to ten years in prison but he only served three. For the next thirty years, he lived a life of poverty and crime. Gideon’s crime record included prison terms at Leavenworth Kansas for stealing government property, in Texas for theft, and again in Missouri for stealing, larceny, and escape. In between prison terms, he managed to get married four times; he had six children, managed to stay out of jail until his arrest in 1961. Given his crime record and proximity to the pool hall, Gideon was the perfect suspect for this crime (Wikipedia, 2013).
Gideon appearing before the Florida Court requested that the court appoint him an attorney. His trial judge Robert McCrary, Jr. denied this request. According to Florida State Law, the court could only appoint an attorney to an indigent defendant in capital cases. Gideon had no choice but to represent himself. On August 25, a jury found him guilty and the judge gave him the maximum sentence (five years in prison) (Oyez, 2013). Gideon was 51 years old.
Petition to Higher Courts
Gideon felt the court had violated his Sixth Amendment Rights. While in prison, he began to study the legal system. Deciding that Judge McCrary had violated his constitutional rights to counsel, he wrote letters to the FBI, and filed a habeas corpus petition with the Florida Supreme Court, stating once again that he felt his rights had been violated and asking for intervention. His petition and plea for help was denied (Wikipedia, 2013).
Undeterred, Gideon continued to study the law. In January 1962, Gideon sat down in his prison cell with a pencil and prison stationary, and began writing his argument. When completed he submitted five page hand written petition...