Panama City, Fl-- A half century ago today the Supreme Court made a monumental decision, that forever changed the course of the American legal system.
Clarence Gideon was accused of burglary at the Bay Harbor Pool Room in 1961 and was convicted even though he claimed his innocence.
While in jail, Gideon wrote a letter appealing his case to the supreme court saying that not being able to afford legal counsel was no reason to be tried without legitimate representation, an idea, with which the supreme court agreed.
Local Public Defender Walter Smith mentioned the importance of a fair and equal trial,
"He was convicted when he tried to represent himself, he was acquitted when he had competent trial counsel. So the case itself illustrates the powerful nature of this right."
The ruling led to courts appointing attorneys for those who can't afford them, establishing the public defender program.