The story Gideon’s Trumpet is a story of a man who sought for justice because he felt that he had been given an unfair judgment. It is a story of how a man courageously fought for his freedom and how a man fought for his rights. The main character Clarence Earl Gideon is a man who had a long history of criminal cases. In and out of prison, that’s how he had spent large portion of his adult life. Though he had been a criminal per se Gideon was not told to be a harmful man in any way.
Clarence Earl Gideon in 1961 was arrested because of breaking a pool hall in Panama City in Florida. He was charged to commit larceny. He committed larceny because he had taken away tangibles to which he deprived that person of his own property. However, intangibles, such as services and real estates are not objects of larceny. Gideon’s case was called for trial, but before the proceedings he was asked if he was ready to proceed or not. He said that he was not ready because he had not prepared himself to secure a counsel to accompany him with the proceedings. He was then asked by the court if he knew that the trial was set that day he answered yes, and then he was asked why he had not secured a counsel for himself.
Lewis quoted, “the defendant answered the Court’s question, but spoke in such low tones that it was not audible.” The judge in the trial court then asked Gideon to come near the bench and repeat his reply so that the trial judge could hear what he was saying. “Your Honor, I said: I request this Court to appoint counsel to represent me in this trial.” The reply of the judge was, “Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint counsel to represent you in this case, 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, 1964).”
Gideon was then forced to represent for himself, he defended himself because he was denied to have an appointed lawyer. Gideon tried his very best to defend himself but no matter how hard he have tried he still got convicted by the jury and was sentenced to spend five years in the penitentiary. Though inside the cell, Gideon continued his appeal. He started to write letters addressed to the Supreme Court for reconsidering another trial in account to his crime. He has no knowledge about it but he had preserved the issue that would make the states change the way they treat an indigent defendant. He believed that he has the right to have a lawyer and that was denied therefore he had been given injustice and he wants to change the law that would make a difference.
The claim that the accused Gideon pursued today is to try him in court without providing him his counsel when he could not afford to provide one for himself, this is a perfect example of him being deprived from the due process of law. Gideon was naive about the fact that he was able to challenge the precedent.
If Gideon were to continue in his search of his right for his own counsel, the court would have to change their decision with regards to Betts vs. Brady case; a case dated years ago. An essential part of the story is devoted to the tactics of Abe Fortas. He was a legendary lawyer from the Washington D.C. firm of Arnold, Fortas and Porter now known as Arnold and Porter. Fortas had assembled a legal team from the firm to decide what arguments are going to be used to be able to persuade the court to reverse Betts and make a new principle of the constitutional law.
Fortas was by that time appointed to be Clarence Earl Gideon’s legal counselor. He had acquired the reputation of being an outstanding appellate lawyer with an amusing experiences arguing before the Supreme Court.
Justice Hugo believed that the right to counsel was a primary right and sought that by observing that no defendant should be deprived from his right to his own counsel merely just because of the person’s incapability to afford one to defend himself.
Lewis sought the continuous changing of arguments that were shortened by the story counsel for Gideon and shows how all aspects were considered and or discarded. By this time Gideon’s counsel established a constitutional right to counsel, and was rewarded. A new constitutional law was announced on March 18 in the year of 1963. Effort that the legal team had shown was then rewarded; at long last the fruit of their labor is ready for harvest. The new constitutional law states that in the due process it requires that indigent defendants should be provided with legal counsel. Victory was not only for Clarence Earl Gideon but also for Justice Hugo Black also who wrote the unanimous decision for the court. Gideon’s and Black’s view were very similar in many ways. They both held back to what they both believed; no society could ever decline to provide a counsel to those indigent and those who are very poor to have one.
Clarence Earl Gideon was granted to have a new trial as a price for the victory he had sought. He appeared for trial with a legal counsel, this time, in the Circuit Court of Bay County in Florida. The lawyer really made a lot of difference this time. Gideon was acquitted in the retrial of his criminal case. The right to have a legal lawyer means a lot in the lives of those who are accused (Lewis, 1964).
Lewis, A. (1964). Gideon’s Trumpet.