The 14th amendment, cleverly called into question by Gideon’s defense can be recapitulated simply. “No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ” (US Constitution) State laws must thus follow the objectives set forth within the Constitution itself.
Any state laws, “state” being the operative word, which are found contrary are invalid and subject to cancelation. Case Premises Clarence Gideon was charged with the crime of breaking and entering, a crime categorized as a felony. He lacked the funds to represent himself in a court of law, so he petitioned the court for assistance and was refused. The refusal was supposedly based on the fact that this was a state crime, and according to the 1943 Betts v. Brady decision, representation was only guaranteed on the federal level.
Additionally his crime was a felony and the argument that was upheld at the time was that counsel was only appointed in capital offense cases. Once at trial, he cross examined witnesses, introduced evidence but didn’t take the stand. Apparently, his defense was not inept but actually well thought out and understandable. However, without considerable knowledge of legal proceedings, he lacked the ability to mount a convincing defense. Accordingly, the jury found him guilty and he spent five years in jail. His original case was heard in the 14th circuit court of Florida.
Because he felt that his imprisonment was unconstitutional, he petitioned the Supreme Court of Florida by serving them a writ of habeas corpus. Specifically this addressed the rights denied him according to the 14th amendment. His claim was that the state had misused its power and instituted laws that went against constitutional intent. The court denied him such rights and he remained in prison. Next, he petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States. They agreed to hear his case and did hire an attorney to represent him.
They decided in favor with his claims. As a result, they overturned the Betts vs. Brady decision. This case was important because it recognized that counsel was a fundamental right. As such, wealth cannot define or dissuade one’s usage of said rights. Subsequently, “Gideon mandated a wealth transfer to indigent defendants. No matter what it cost, lawyers had to be made available at trial and on appeal. ” (Levine, 2007) Gideon leveled the playing field and at least in spirit afforded counsel to every defendant.
This was a Civil Liberties victory. The indigent at last had a voice in the legal system. The overall significance of his case was summarized by Justice Black. “Treating due process as a concept less rigid and more fluid that those envisaged in other specific and particular provisions of the Bill of Rights, the Court held that refusal to appoint counsel under the particular facts and circumstances in the Betts cases was not so offensive to the common and fundamental ideals of fairness, as to amount to a denial of due process.
Since the facts and circumstances of the two cases are nearly indistinguishable, we think the Betts v. Brady holding if left standing would require us to reject Gideon’s claim that the Constitution guarantees him the assistance of counsel. Upon full reconsideration we conclude that Betts v. Brady should be overruled. ” (www. lectlaw. com) In effect, this ruling demonstrated the 14th and 6th amendments were designed to work together to protect the defendants in the state and federal court systems.