The Warren Court (1953–69)

Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Rights

What happened to Clarence Earl Gideon after the Supreme Court’s decision?

The Supreme Court’s decision meant that Gideon would be retried again, this time with the benefit of counsel. Attorney Abe Fortas told Gideon that he would be better off with local (Florida) counsel. He recommended that Gideon write the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, asking for the assistance of counsel. The ACLU sent two lawyers to meet with Gideon. However, much to their (and the court’s) surprise, Gideon did not want to be represented by these lawyers. Local Panama City attorney Fred Turner was appointed to represent Gideon. Turner effectively cross-examined one of the state’s chief witnesses during the second trial. The jury voted “not guilty” and Gideon was freed after serving two years in prison. He died in 1972.

Author Anthony Lewis, in his book Gideon’s Trumpet, discussed the importance of the Gideon case: “[It] is in part a testament to a single human being. Against all the odds of inertia and ignorance and fear of state power, Clarence Earl Gideon insisted that he had a right to a lawyer and kept on insisting all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. His triumph there shows that the poorest and least powerful of men—a convict with not even a friend to visit him in prison—can take his cause to the highest court in the land and bring about a fundamental change in the law.”


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Supreme Court Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App