Commonwealth of Massachusetts A Proclamation His Excellency Governor Deval L. Patrick
Whereas Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaking into a Florida poolroom on June 3, 1961 and stealing coins from a cigarette machine. He asserted his innocence; and
Whereas Gideon’s request for counsel was denied, and the 51-year-old drifter with an eighth-grade education defended himself against the legal case presented by the state’s prosecuting attorney. He was convicted of felony breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to five years in state prison; and
Whereas Gideon submitted a handwritten petition to the United States Supreme Court from his Florida prison cell, arguing that the United States Constitution does not allow poor people to be convicted and sent to prison without legal representation; and
Whereas Twenty-two state attorneys general joined in an amicus brief written by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office supporting Gideon and the right to counsel; and
Whereas On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Gideon’s trial and conviction without the assistance of counsel was fundamentally unfair and violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. It is an “obvious truth,” the Court stated, that “in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him”; and
Whereas Subsequent Supreme Court decisions have further expanded the states’ obligation to provide counsel to people who cannot afford to hire a lawyer; and
Whereas The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is dedicated to the principle of equal justice for all regardless of income,
Now, Therefore, I, Deval L. Patrick,Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, do hereby proclaim March 18, 2013, to be
And urge all the citizens of the Commonwealth to take cognizance of this event and participate fittingly in its observance.
Given at the Executive Chamber in Boston, this fourteenth day of March, in the year thousand and thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
By His Excellency
Deval L. Patrick Governor of the Commonwealth
William Francis Galvin Secretary of the Commonwealth