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Gideons Trumpet Essay

1855 words - 8 pages

Published in 1964, Gideon's Trumpet is based off a true story of one man's quest to be given the right to have a counsel appointed to him by the court. Constitution's Sixth Amendment declared he had a right to counsel and he fought hard to obtain justice. If Gideon didn't realize that he had a right to counsel, this case would have never been held and the legal sytem might still be the same today! Clarence Earl Gideon is a man that most Americans outside of the legal system, as well as within it, would not even recognize who he was. The author, Anthony Lewis, wanted this change and wanted the citizens of the United States to see the dramatic impact that the Gideon's case had on the ...view middle of the document...

The court questioned this action and asked why he was not ready, he declared that the court had not appointed him a counsel. Then the court questioned whether Gideon knew if the trial was going to be held today. Gideon responded with a yes and of course the Court had to ask why he did not obtain a counsel for his trial.
Lewis writes, "Your Honor, I said: I request this Court to appoint counsel to represent me in this trial"(Lewis 10). The judge replied, "Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint counsel to represent you in this case. Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the court can appoint counsel to represent a Defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense. I am sorry, but I will have to deny your request to appoint counsel to defend you in this case"(Lewis 10). Completely annoyed by this, Gideon was forced to represent himself and anyone could have guessed it, he was convicted. He was placed in prison and during this time Gideon was determined to "fight the man" and pursue his appeal. Gideon had no idea that this letter of appeal would create a monumental change in the way the state courts treat indigent defendants.
Trying him for a felony without providing him counsel when he was too poor to afford one!? As we see this today, our society feels like this is blasphemist and unreasonable. This overwhelmingly violates the due process of law and Gideon's actions challenge the precedent that had been established in Betts v. Brady almost twenty years earlier. The case which was held by the Supreme Court, voted of six to three. Declaring the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not have to guarantee counsel in state criminal cases. If Gideon were to be granteed right to counsel, the Court would have no choice but to reverse the Betts decision.
Though Gideon's Trumpet is mostly directed towards Gideon himself, the novel consistently talks about Abe Fortas. Fortas a lawyer of Washington, D.C. firm of Arnold, Fortas and the legal team he assembled was appointed counsel for Clarence Gideon. Even before this case, Fortas' reputation has catipolted to one of the nation's top appellate lawyers with unmatched experience arguing against the Supreme. Fortas has served in the FDR administration, was a trusted friend and counselor of President Lyndon Johnson, and was a member of the legal committee. He was determined to change the rules of criminal procedure and got some help by teaming up with Chief Justice Earl Warren. Lewis really lets the reader know that this man was not afraid of the power the Supreme Court had and he truly believed he could win the case.
The story goes in depth about the persuasion for the Court to overrule the Betts case. In his case he argued that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment obligated the states to appoint counsel in criminal cases. The absence of counsel in a state conviction made the trial lacking in fundamental fairness but the Court determined the...

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