Kane County public defenders celebrate anniversary of landmark decision
ST. CHARLES – Clarence Earl Gideon was a guy who often was in trouble, starting as a teen with a stint in juvenile hall at 16. On June 3, 1961, he was charged with burglary of the Bay Harbor Pool Hall in Panama City, Fla., and theft of money from its vending machines.
Too poor to afford a lawyer, he asked the trial judge to appoint one. The judge didn’t. Gideon defended himself, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. From his cell, Gideon wrote a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court in pencil, explaining his lack of counsel meant he did not get a fair trial.
“I was without friends, and I was without an attorney,” Gideon wrote in his Oct. 11, 1961, letter to the high court. “I did not have a fair trial.”
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