Anthony Lewis (1927 – 2013), author of GIDEON’S TRUMPET and twice the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, died this week, aged 85.
GIDEON’S TRUMPET (1964) is a bestselling history of the landmark case of James Earl Gideon’s fight for the right to legal counsel.
I really loved the update to Gideon’s Trumpet, Karen Houppert’s Chasing Gideon. I loved it so much I included it as one of my Editor’s Picks this year!
It’s rare for me to find a title that delivers an equal measure of storytelling gusto and urgent political information—I’m either introduced to obscure or unknown (to me) subject matter by an especially charming writer, or I’m struggling through leaden books about causes I really believe in. CHASING GIDEON: THE ELUSIVE QUEST FOR POOR PEOPLE’S JUSTICE (New Pr., dist. by Perseus, Mar.; see p. 112) by Washington Post Magazinecontributing editor Karen Houppert, is both important and a great read.
Touching on privatized prisons, public support for the death penalty, and institutionalized racism, Chasing Gideon is more than just a look back at five decades of Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed free legal counsel in criminal cases to those who cannot afford it. (Its 50th anniversary falls in March 2013). A monumental victory for the nation’s poor, who have historically made up the majority of defendants in criminal cases, Gideon promised far more than it actually delivered. Today, more than 80 percent of defendants are represented by a public defender, and—with a fraction of the funding, resources, and respect that prosecutors receive—these lawyers cannot adequately serve their clients, most of whom have no other resources. The results, as described in devastating detail by Houppert, are disastrous: unwise plea bargains are accepted, the innocent are found guilty, and even those who haven’t been charged with a crime languish in prison for months. A necessary book but also a thoroughly good one: this is a title to be devoured.