Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Clarence Gideon Story

A Second Trial

The ruling had an immediate impact in states like Florida that had denied free counsel to convicted felons. In many cases, states simply released the prisoners rather than take on the time, trouble and expense of new trials. In Florida alone, about 2,000 convicts were freed as a result of the Gideon decision.

Oddly, Clarence Gideon was not among them.

His conviction had been set aside by the court ruling, but Florida stubbornly scheduled another trial, even though he had served nearly two years of the five-year sentence.

The prospect of a second trial made Gideon even more irascible. The Florida Civil Liberties Union volunteered two top-shelf Miami attorneys, but Gideon rejected them.

Instead, he chose a journeyman Panama City attorney, Fred Turner, 41.

Gideon also asked that his trial be moved from the courtroom of Judge McCrary, who presided at his first trial. That was denied.

Turner spent several days preparing for the retrial, which took place on August 5, 1963, five months after the Supreme Court ruling.

Turner picked apart the testimony of eyewitness Henry Cook, according to author Lewis. The attorney insinuated in his opening and closing statements that Cook likely had been a lookout for a group of thirsty young men who broke in to steal booze, then grabbed the coins while they were at it.

Turner elicited a crucial detail from the cab driver who took Gideon from Bay Harbor to a bar in Panama City: Gideon was carrying neither wine, beer nor Coke when he picked him up, even though Cook testified that he watched Gideon walk from the pool hall to the phone, then wait for a cab.

The jury acquitted Gideon after a mere one hour of deliberation.

He walked out of the courtroom that day and went to the Bay Harbor Poolroom to celebrate.


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