Someone broke a window, smashed the cigarette machine and jukebox, and stole money from both.
Later that day, a witness reported that he had seen Clarence Earl Gideon in the poolroom at around 5:30 that morning.
When Gideon was found nearby with a pint of wine and some change in his pockets, the police arrested him and charged him with breaking and entering.
semi-literate drifter who could not afford a lawyer, so at the trial, he asked the judge to appoint one for him.
Gideon argued that the Court should do so because the Sixth Amendment says that everyone is entitled to a lawyer.
The judge denied his request, ruling that the state did not have to pay a poor person's legal defense unless he was charged with a capital crime or "special circumstances" existed. Gideon was left to represent himself.
-Gideon did a poor job of defending himself.
He had done no preparation work before his trial:
his choice of witnesses was unusual—for instance, he called police officers who arrested him to testify on his behalf, not having any reason to believe they would help his case.
He had no experience in cross-examining a witness in order to impeach that person's credibility, so his line of questioning was not as productive as a lawyer's would have been.
The Court allowed him to file it in forma pauperis, which meant that the Court would waive the fees generally associated with such a petition. Generally, the Court dismisses most of these petitions; Gideon's was among those that it did not dismiss.