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The Champion

January/February 2003 , Page 20 

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Competent Counsel with Adequate Resources

By Anthony Lewis

There could hardly be anything more familiar to criminal defense lawyers than the story of Clarence Earl Gideon. A drifter and ex-convict, seemingly the least influential of men, he insisted against all the odds that the Constitution of the United States entitled him to a lawyer at state expense when he was charged with breaking and entering the Bay Harbor Poolroom in Panama City, Florida. Without a lawyer, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. He wrote a letter from prison to the Supreme Court, and on March 18, 1963, the Court overruled its earlier decisions and held that there could be no fair trial in a serious criminal case without a right to counsel for the defendant.

“This seems to us to be an obvious truth,” Justice Hugo L. Black wrote in his opinion. But it is easy to overlook the obvious — to forget what a difference a lawyer can make. So I found when I watched the filming of a movie based on my book, Gideon’s Trumpet. The producers

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