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Indigent Criminal Defense Research Guide

Created in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, this research guide collects sources related to the history, development, and current state of indigent criminal defense in the United States.


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Gideon v. Wainwright

The watershed mark in the history of indigent criminal defense in the United States is the Supreme Court's 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright. The Court's holding that all criminal defendants had the right to be represented by counsel, even if they could not afford an attorney, marked the beginning of the due process "rights revolution" of the Warren Court.

  • Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)
    Clarence Earl Gideon was accused of breaking into a pool hall and stealing money from the cash register and jukebox. The trial judge refused to appoint an attorney to represent him, and Gideon was unable to afford his own counsel. He represented himself, and was convicted of breaking and entering. While in prison, he filed a petition for habeas corpus against the Florida official charged with running the state's corrections system. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded his conviction, holding that the Florida court erred in not supplying him with an attorney. Gideon was later acquitted on retrial.
  • Gideon scholarship
    • Bruce R. Jacob, Memories of and Reflections about Gideon v. Wainwright, 33 Stetson L. Rev.181 (2003).
    • Richard Klein, The Emperor Gideon Has No Clothes: The Empty Promise of the Constitutional Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel, 13 Hastings Const. L.Q. 625 (1985).
    • Abe Krash & Anthony Lewis, The History of Gideon v. Wainwright, 10 Pace L. Rev. 379 (1990).
    • Henry P. Monaghan, Gideon's Army: Student Soldiers, 45 B.U. L. Rev. 445 (1965).
    •  William W. Jr Nicholls & Roland E. Smith, The Impact of Gideon v. Wainwright and Miranda v. Arizona in a State Appellate Court: The Conduit Is Not Passive, 22 Jurimetrics J.307 (1981).
  • Original source documents relating to Gideon
    • The case files for Gideon v. Cochran/Wainwright 372 U.S. 335 (1963) are at the National Archives I, Record Group 267: Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1772 - 2007, Series Appellate Jurisdiction Case Files, 1792 - 2006, Appellate Jurisdiction Case File Gideon v. Wainwright, 01/08/1962 - 04/12/1963.

    • National Archives, online public access: Petition for a Writ of Certiorarifrom Clarence Earl Gideon to the Supreme Court of the United States, 01/05/1962.

    • Gideon v. Cochran/Wainwright 372 U.S. 335 (1963) case files (complete set of photocopies), Clinton Bamberger papers, Gideon v. Cochran, NEJL-033
    • Oral history interview with Abe Krash by Victor Geminiani, NEJL Oral History Project, March 17, 1993, transcript and video recording.
    • Oral history interview with Bruce Jacob by Victor Geminiani, NEJL Oral History Project, July 9, 1993, transcript and video recording.

    • Oral history interview with Anthony Lewis by Victor Geminiani, NEJL Oral History Project, March 18, 1993, transcript and video recording.
    • David Rintels CollectionGideon's Trumpet script and stills, NEJL 046.

      The collection includes a copy of the script for Gideon's Trumpet (1980), signed by screenwriter David Rintels, and stills of actors Henry Fonda, John Houseman, Jose Ferrer, among others, portraying characters in the film. The movie was originally shown on CBS as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame.