Lawyers from throughout the nation are meeting in Washington today to remember a career criminal from Hannibal who changed the American legal system. Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling that guarantees defense lawyers for people charged with crimes, if those people cannot afford representation. The person who filed the suit that brought the ruling was Clarence Earl Gideon, born in Hannibal in 1910. He was in prison for a 1961 Florida poolroom break-in when he hand-wrote an appeal on prison-issued notebook paper asking the Supreme Court to consider his case. The resulting court decision said that a person without a lawyer cannot be guaranteed a fair trial. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is holding a day-long symposium commemorating the Gideon ruling. Gideon died in 1972.
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