March 18, 2012 2:39 PM Subscribe
On June 3, 1961, a poor drifter named Clarence Gideon was seen getting into a cab with a bottle of wine, some smokes, and some cash in his pockets as he left the Bay Harbor Pool Room. Police had been called to investigate a broken cigarette machine and promptly found and arrested Gideon. Unable to afford an attorney and forced by the trial judge to represent himself, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. After having his petition for a writ of Habeus Corpus denied by the Florida Supreme Court, he petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. 49 years ago today, the court ruled unanimously in his favor, setting a lasting, fundamental precedent. His case was sent back down to Florida, and with proper representation, he was acquitted.
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