On the night of June 3, 1961, a pool hall in a small Florida town was robbed. The police soon picked up a poor wanderer. His name was Clarence Earl Gideon. He said he didn't do it, but he had a record. After short trial, he was sent to prison.
Gideon felt he had been treated unfairly. Since he was poor, he had no lawyer at his trial, so he wrote to the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Supreme Court decided to look into his case. The Court had looked at a case like this 20 years before. At that time it had said a man had to pay for his lawyer. He could only get a lawyer free if his was a special case. And Gideon's case was not special.
The Court heard opinions from fine lawyers in all parts of the country. Finally it made a decision. The old rule was dead. Now every man on trial for a serious crime had to be given a lawyer. Gideon was to have a new trial. And he was to get a lawyer, free of charge.
But Gideon was stubborn to the end. He said he did not want a new trial. He wanted to be set free. He said he did not want a lawyer after all. But he got one anyway. And he was tried again. This time, he was found not guilty. He left the prison a free man.
A law that affected millions of people was changed. And all because a stubborn man sat down one day to write to the Supreme Court.