Gideon's Trumpet

3150 Words13 Pages
Gideon’s Trumpet, by: Anthony Lewis

Clarence Earl Gideon was born on August 30, 1910 in Missouri. Gideon lost his father when he was three years old. His home life was non existent as he ran away from home when he finished eighth grade and started living his life as a homeless drifter. By the time that Gideon reached the age of sixteen he had an extensive list of petty crimes. At age eighteen he was arrested in Missouri and convicted of robbery, larceny and burglary. Gideon was sentenced to ten years in prison but was released in 1932 after serving three years.
Gideon would spend most of the next thirty years in poverty and in and out of prison. Throughout this time he was married four times, the first three marriages ended
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On August 27th, 1961, three days before his 52nd birthday, Judge McCrary gave Gideon the maximum sentence of five years in prison. This would be the beginning of a journey Gideon never imagined would impact the judicial system so strongly; nor did he realize that his name would become synonymous with the rights of the poor to have legal counsel in any judicial defense.
From the beginning Gideon was tormented with his inability to have received counsel due to his financial situation. He began reading law books in the prison library and then began his study of the American legal system. He came to the conclusion that Judge McCrary had violated his constitutional rights to counsel under the Sixth Amendment, applicable to the state through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
He almost immediately wrote to an FBI office in Florida, but he was denied help. On October 30, 1961 less than thirty days from when he was sentenced he applied to the Florida Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, an order freeing him on the ground that he was illegally imprisoned. Finally, on the morning of January 8, 1962, the Supreme Court of the United States received an envelope from prisoner No. 003826 of Florida State Prison; Gideon had hand written a five page petition to the United States Supreme Court. The envelope was sent to an assistant clerk of the Supreme Court, Michael Rodak, Jr. It would be Mr. Rodak’s
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