Posts tagged with "due process"

Landmark Case – Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

Right to Counsel, Due Process

“If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in his prison cell . . . to write a letter to the Supreme Court . . . the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter, the Court did look into his case . . . and the whole course of American legal history has been changed.” —Robert F. Kennedy

In June 1961, a burglary occurred at the Bay Harbor Pool Room in Panama City, FL.  Police arrested Clarence Earl Gideon after he was found nearby with a pint of wine and some change in his pockets. Gideon, who could not afford a lawyer, asked a Florida Circuit Court judge to appoint one for him arguing that the Sixth Amendment entitles everyone to a lawyer. The judge denied his request and Gideon was left to represent himself. He did a poor job of defending himself and was found guilty of breaking and entering and petty larceny. While serving his sentence in a Florida state prison, Gideon began studying law, which reaffirmed his belief his rights were violated when the Florida Circuit Court refused his request for counsel. From his prison cell, he handwrote a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case and it agreed. The Court unanimously ruled in Gideon’s favor, stating that the Six Amendment requires state courts to provide attorneys for criminal defendants who cannot otherwise afford counsel.

Landmark Case – Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

Slavery, Due Process, the Missouri Compromise

” . . . We think they [people of African ancestry] are . . . not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. . . .” — Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, speaking for the majority

In 1834, slave Dred Scott was purchased in Missouri and then brought to Illinois, a free (non-slave) state. His owner and he later moved to present-day Minnesota where slavery had been recently prohibited, and then back to Missouri.  When his owner died, Scott sued the widow to whom he was left, claiming he was no longer a slave because he had become free after living in a free state.  At a time when the country was in deep conflict over slavery, the Supreme Court decided that Dred Scott was not a “citizen of the state” so they had no jurisdiction in the matter, but the majority opinion also stated that he was not a free man.