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Room 119D Gideon v. Wainwright Audio Transcript

In this room, the exhibit discusses one of the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decisions, Gideon v. Wainwright. Considered one of the most important cases in American history, the Supreme Court upheld the right to counsel for all defendants, thereby creating the public defender system in the United States. This famous case started in Florida, when Clarence Gideon was arrested in Panama City for robbery. Unable to afford an attorney of his own, he was convicted and sent to the state penitentiary, located at Raiford. The courts at that time only provided lawyers for capital cases such as murder. From prison, Gideon sent a handwritten note along with a petition to the Supreme Court regarding his lack of representation during the trial, his ignorance of the law and resulting inability to properly represent himself at that time. The Supreme Court heard this case and in a landmark decision, they found that all defendants have an equal right to counsel, no matter the charge. Today this is found in the Miranda Rights, which are required to be read on every arrest within the country; “You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.” In 1964, Clarence Gideon, the poor man who changed Florida and U.S. law, became immortalized in Anthony Lewis’s book, Gideon’s Trumpet. Actor Henry Fonda portrayed Clarence Gideon in the 1980 television movie based on the book. The large photographs on the window and large wall mural are of inmates at the Florida State Prison at Raiford.

In 1902, this room was an office for one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Florida. One of those Justices was Thomas Mitchell Shackleford. Born in 1859, in Tennessee, at the age of 23, he moved to Florida and started his own law practice. Living in Brooksville Florida, Shackleford became friends with another young attorney, William Sherman Jennings. After Jennings became Governor in 1901, he appointed Shackleford to the Florida Supreme Court in 1902, where he also served as Chief Justice. Shackleford left in 1917 and died 10 years later in his adopted home town of Tampa. He authored a novel entitled, By Sunlit Waters: A Tampa Story.