Clarence Gideon Story
A Florida Burglary
A Bay County, Fla., lawman was waiting when Ira Strickland Jr. arrived to open his pool hall/beer joint at on
Deputy Deull Pitts Jr. informed the proprietor that his business had been violated overnight. A burglar broke a window to get inside, then jimmied the coin boxes to the cigarette machine and jukebox.
The burglary would not have come as a surprise to Strickland. His business was located in
Strickland made a quick accounting and determined that roughly $65 in change, 12 beers, 12 Cokes and four fifths of cheap wine were missing. The booty amounted to maybe $100.
Deputy Pitts told Strickland that an eyewitness, Henry Cook, a 22-year-old greaser who lived nearby, had provided a detailed account.
Cook said he noticed movement inside the building and stepped back to watch furtively through the window. He said he saw a man walk out carrying a bottle of wine. The mans trouser pockets bulged with coins. Cook said the man went to a nearby pay phone, dialed and spoke, then got in a cab when it arrived a short time later.
Within a couple of hours police tracked Gideon to a tavern in downtown
Cops figured they had their break-in culprit cold. They arrested him.
But from the moment he was accused, Gideon swore he was the wrong man. He said the coins in his pockets were from nickel-ante poker winnings, not from Stricklands machines.
Gideon vowed to fight the charges. Destitute, he asked that a lawyer be appointed to represent him, at taxpayer expense. At age 51, he was no stranger to courtrooms, and he knew enough about criminal law to understand that he was outmatched against a professional prosecutor.
But Judge Robert McCrary Jr. told him, Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint counsel to represent you in this case. Under the laws of the State of
Gideon countered, The United States Supreme Court says I am entitled to be represented by counsel.
The judges decision and Gideons insistence of his innocence would help the lowly break-inone of 949,600 reported in the