EarlGideonGideon’s Trumpet Reading Analysis Chapters 6-10 As we continue through Gideon’s Trumpet, Anthony Lewis continues to explain the complicated process that the Supreme Court takes in hearing a case. There are many instances in which Lewis shows how he is in favor of thick, procedural democracy. Lewis emphasizes the process of judicial review; the prejudice is the court system, the history of ones right to counsel, and how the court was changing at the time. Through these examples, Lewis shows how the Supreme Court is not a perfectly unbiased system; it is quite adequate in its process.
However, as this book relates to American Creation, the time and place of the novel played a pivotal role in fate of Clarence Earl Gideon. Throughout this section of Gideon’s Trumpet, Lewis shows that the case of Gideon v. Cochran and later Gideon v. Wainwright was not as important as the time at which the case occurred. When looking at the overview of the Gideon’s Trumpet movie, it may come across as the Supreme Court helping a man who could not adequately defend himself. However, many of the people involved in the process of getting Gideon’s case to the Supreme Court focus on their own personal agenda.
Although none of their motives were corrupt, there were many instances of people looking out for only themselves, a use of classic liberalism. Obviously Clarence Earl Gideon had a reason to appeal to the Supreme Court, because regardless of either innocent or guilty, he believed he was denied his basic right to counsel. As shown in the Gideon’s Trumpet movie, while in prison Gideon kept to himself and with the exception of the one man who had been in prison for 20 years, Gideon did not want to help any of the other inmates.
The lawyer assigned to his case was looking to make history by having his case heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Justices were looking for a case to overturn Betts v Brady, and Gideon just happen to be the case that was used. Through this use of classic republicanism, there is also the issue of how Gideon’s case was heard by the Supreme Court. Much like Joseph Ellis’ argument in regards to the Washington army in American Creation, it is evident that the time in which Gideon’s case was heard by the Supreme Court is the main reason that Clarence Gideon was eleased from prison. Prior to the Supreme Court receiving Gideon’s petition, the issue of Betts v. Brady was a hot topic amongst the Justices. Justice Frankfurter was one of the last Justices in favor of “stare decisis, the judicial doctrine of following precedents” (Lewis 1964: 88). The modern stance had become to overrule cases in which the court believed were unconstitutional, most famously overturning Plessy v. Ferguson in 1954. The tide had officially turned once Justice Frankfurter retired in 1962, before Gideon’s case was heard in January of 1963.
His retirement allowed Gideon’s counsel for the Supreme Court, Abe Fortas, to have a Supreme Court in which would easily be able to side with his argument. Taking away the importance of the Gideon v Wainwright ruling would be completely unjust. Through this ruling, any person charged with a crime had a right to an attorney, regardless of what the case was, the severity of the crimes charged, the past history of the defendant, or the wealth of the defendant, everyone has the right to a lawyer.
Without this case, there would continue to be a vast majority of people, only in the states that had not yet adapted laws that allowed representation for all defendants, in prisons without having received a fair trial. However, it would be ill-informed if Gideon was treated as a hero for bringing his case to the Supreme Court. Gideon was simply a man who wanted to get out of prison. He did not fully understand, nor did he care about the effects it would have on the future. Through good timing and a few people’s actions, Gideon’s case was heard and he was ultimately released from prison.
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