Americans didn’t always have the right to an attorney. It all started with a pool hall robbery in Florida, and an unlikely legal advocate: a poor drifter named Clarence Earl Gideon. Gideon brought the fight for free counsel to the Supreme Court 50 years ago — and won. But all these years later, the promise of Gideon goes unfulfilled everyday. This is the story of how we built the public defender system and how we broke it. And what happened when Ricky Kidd was charged with murder in 1997 and was forced to rely on this broken system.
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