Poor are entitled to a fair trial – Our latest Op-Ed in the Star

Clarence Gideon

Clarence Gideon

On a warm summer’s morning in June 1961, a penniless odd-jobber by the name of Gideon Clarence was discovered in a seedy bar in Panama City, a town in the state of Florida, the US.

When the police tracked him down, he was described as drinking on the morning shift, his trousers “hanging low, weighted by exactly $25.28 in coins”. Clarence, with a history of theft, drifting and destitution, was arrested under suspicion of breaking and entering a pool hall the evening before, supposedly walking off with a few bottles of liquor and the change from the juke-box machine. The evidence? A few convenient witnesses, his history of criminal activity – and, of course, the change sagging in his trouser pocket, which he claimed was the lucky outcome of a poker game.

For more on how Clarence changed US law and how that impacts South African’s today, read our latest op-ed in the Star – written by Robyn Leslie, senior researcher – here.


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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