Clarence Earl Gideon, a semi-literate drifter, is arrested for breaking into a pool room and for petty theft. When he asks the court to appoint a lawyer for his defense because he cannot afford one, his request is denied. Acting as his own lawyer, Gideon is convicted and sent to jail. While in prison, he begins a hand-written campaign directed to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that every defendant is entitled to legal representation. The Court agrees to hear Gideon's case, and, in a landmark decision, rules in his favor.
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