News Release ~ 01/03/2003

Web page offers information on history of right to counsel in commemoration of Gideon v. Wainwright

Resources available as 40th anniversary approaches  

Washington, DC (January 1, 2003) -- In preparation for the 40th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has launched a special Web page of materials for journalists, lawyers, teachers, students, and the general public to learn about the right to counsel for the accused. The Gideon decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 18, 1963, and held that persons facing imprisonment are entitled to counsel at trial if they cannot afford an attorney.

One of the resources available on NACDL''s new Web page is a lesson plan for high schools on the right to counsel, developed by a group of defenders and teachers. The Web page, www.nacdl.org/gideon, also contains background materials on Gideon, public education resources for attorneys, information about Gideon-related events, and related articles from The Champion, NACDL''s award-winning journal. The January/February edition of The Champion will be devoted to articles about Gideon and the right to counsel, and will feature articles by Sen. Edward Kennedy, Gideon''s Trumpet author Anthony Lewis, Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, and others.

"After forty years, it may come as a surprise that in some parts of the country, people who cannot afford counsel do not get meaningful representation," said Kate Jones, Indigent Defense Counsel for NACDL. "We hope that by providing this information we can help students and the general public understand the importance of qualified representation in ensuring a fair justice system. The work of groups such as the Innocence Project has proven that, otherwise, innocent people can be locked away, maybe even put to death."

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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