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Ex-FL Prisons Chief Wainwright Dies, Defendant In Historic Gideon Case

The late Louie Wainwright's name appears in two of Florida’s most notable court decisions protecting the rights of prison inmates. Wainwright headed the prison system for 25 years, retiring in 1986. He died at 98 on Dec. 23, reports News From The States. Legal scholars will most remember him for two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in which he was the lead defendant. The best known is Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to have a lawyer appointed in state courts. That decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Clarence Earl Gideon, a defendant charged with breaking into a pool hall with the intent to commit a misdemeanor.


Gideon could not afford a lawyer and the court would not appoint counsel unless a defendant was charged with a capital offense that could result in the death penalty. From a state prison cell, Gideon used the prison library and in pencil appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a suit he filed against Wainwright, ensuring that their names would be forever linked in the famous case. The other case that created legal history in Wainwright’s name was decided in 1986, the same year he retired. It involved Alvin Bernard Ford, a death row inmate. The high court ruled that the Constitution prohibits the use of the death penalty when the defendant is insane, and concluded that the procedures Florida used to determine sanity were not adequate.


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