Few names in public defense are as iconic as that of Clarence Earl Gideon. In 1961, with an 8th grade education and a history of being in and out of jail, Gideon stood trial for burglary of a Florida pool hall. When the court called the case and asked if he was ready for trial Gideon replied "I am not ready, your Honor." When the judge asked why, he explained "I have no counsel."
So was the start of one of the most pivotal cases in the American criminal justice system. A man with an 8th grade education was being forced to stand alone against the State and the trained, skilled lawyer who represented it. Gideon knew he could not adequately defend himself without an equally skilled advocate by his side.
He proved correct, for he would be convicted in that first trial, but just a few months after his monumental Supreme Court victory, Gideon returned to that same Florida courtroom to be retried for the burglary. With a lawyer to assist him, on August 5, 1963, he was found not guilty.
Transcript of Gideon's Original Trial Transcript of Gideon's Re-trial
Supreme Court Oral Arguments
"The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to a fair trial in some countries but it is in ours."
While Gideon's lawyer, future Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, is well known, often less remembered is the attorney who represented the Respondent, the State of Florida. Bruce Jacob was a young Florida Assistant Attorney General. While he argued against the application of the 6th Amendment's right to counsel to the states, when the Florida legislature enacted a law allowing private attorneys to act as unpaid, volunteer public defenders, Jacob signed his name to that list and began a long career in public defense. One that included, in 2013, being honored with NACDL's Champion of Public Defense Award.
Learn about Bruce Jacobs' legacy in: Bruce Jacob: A Leading Voice in Public Defense by Ellen Podgor
Gideon at 50 Reports from NACDL
Reflecting upon the state of public defense 50 years after the Gideon decision, NACDL produced a series of reports designed to prove a national overview of public defense systems across the country.
Part 1: Rationing Justice
Part 2: Redefining Indigence
Part 3: Representation in All Criminal Prosecutions
The Champion Celebrates Gideon
In 2012 NACDL published "Perspectives on Gideon at 50," a compendium of articles on the role Gideon has played and will continue to play in fulfilling the 6th Amendment. Authors include: Jon Rapping, Eric Holder, and Andrea Lyon. In 2012-13, The Champion also celebrated the work done every day by public defenders in its series, Gideon's Champions. Day in and day out these attorney-warriors serve as a shield against unjust accusations and a sword against oppression.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!