Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis.1964

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Gideon’s Trumpet


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    Gideon’s Trumpet, a well-known book in the field of law was written by Anthony Lewis in 1964 and the book presents to us the true account of a man by the name of Clarence Earl Gideon, a semiliterate transient who is put in prison for breaking and entering and minor stealing. In the book we find a detailed account of the story of a man that managed to become a constitutional landmark. The book, Gideon’s Trumpet has been penned down by the author in order to call to mind the olden times behind the Gideon v. Wainwright court case and the ways in which it made such an everlasting impact on the laws of the United States. This exceptional book scrutinizes the case Gideon v. Wainwright, the milestone 1963 Supreme Court case which detained that impoverished criminal defendants are unconstrained to legal advocates at the expense of the government.

The book ‘Gideon’s Trumpet’ won a prestigious prize, the Edgar Award for the Best Fact Crime back given by the Mystery Writers of America in the year 1965. In 1980 a movie was also made, which was based on the book, the cast included Henry Fonda (Clarence Earl Gideon) and José Ferrer (Abe Fortas).

Primary Theme of the Book:

     In his book, the author puts forward the story of Clarence Earl Gideon, the obdurate criminal whose case set the grounds for the Supreme Court to necessitate states to make attorneys available to anyone, indicted of an offense, who does not have the capability to manage to pay for one. The book is longer than it should have been, but this drawback does not in anyway obstruct the understanding and simply helps turn a particular case into a much better informative incident. In his book, the author has made efforts so as to explain the workings of the Supreme Court as well as to provide an in-depth analysis of the diverse theories of Fourteenth Amendment amalgamation of privileges that are still significant to today’s unlawful process.

     The author of the book puts forward the case as a true-life happening, illustrating the idiosyncrasy and oddity of Gideon, who “was a fifty-one-year-old white man who had been in and out of prison much of his life. He had served time for four previous felonies, and he bore the physical marks of a destitute life. He had never been a professional criminal or a man of violence” (Lewis, p.5).

He portrays the chronological setting of the proceedings, and then goes on to portray just how the particulars in the wake of the case make for a thrilling tale with a small number of twists, for instance the opposition’s tactics for amicus filings that did not go as planned. The book under consideration, Gideon’s Trumpet endows the reader with a feeling of contentment of justice being served, at the same time as unfolding a past occurrence; clearing up the court progression and the internal mechanism of the Supreme Court; and exemplifying the humanity that is the driving force behind the entire business. The book, being an account of Clarence Earl Gideon who as mentioned previously was a poverty-stricken prisoner who took his case to the Supreme Court and generated the 60’s federal and state movement to set up officially authorized representation for the recluse. The case, Gideon vs. Wainwright (1963), ended in the Supreme Court’s undisputed verdict to upend a twenty-one-year-old declaration in Betts vs. Brady, and protected the right of legal illustration for the charged who do not have the resources to compensate for an advocate in the United States.
Prior to the Gideon verdict, the Supreme Court had resolute that the states should, at least come to a conclusion whether or not the criminal required representation. As a consequence, in a vast number of cases, the deficiency of a particular federal position and indefinite course of action allowed the states to lawfully take legal action against poverty-stricken defendants exclusive of presenting them any lawful safeguard. This kept on happening till the time that Clarence Gideon decided to take his case all the way up to the highest court in the United States of America and be triumphant. According to the book, “Gideon said his conviction violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that “No state shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”. To try a poor man for a felony without giving him a lawyer, he said, was to deprive him of a due process of law” (Lewis, p.8).

Even though the case narration is noteworthy in its own manner, Gideon’s Trumpet is recounted with an adequate amount of side notes about the judicial procedure and societal framework that it offers am extensive evocative look at the system of the law for the public and citizens in general. The book has been written by the author in a manner that puts forward the point of view of the lawyers, the judges, as well as Gideon himself. He merges legal history with stories related to the interest of the humans. The writing in the book is consistently clear; and he presents the readers with a superb basic coverage on Supreme Court proceedings. Certain issues that have been discussed in the book do not hold much interest in the general public these days, but the most basic message that one can conclude after reading the book is that the criminal justice system of the United States of America must guard the basic rights of the citizens and this is a message that holds far more importance now than it did back in the years of Gideon himself. One of the basic authorities of the judge in USA is the “contempt of court” power. A judge basically has the power to reprimand the criminal with a fine or imprisonment. Another power that every judge practises is the authority to pronounce a law unconstitutional and invalid. “Gideon’s Trumpet” brings about a glimmer of optimism for those who seem to have the misconception that the legal system of the United States is exclusively limited and is a particular privilege of the well-off and politically associated people, and the book does so by presenting us with the account of a practically insignificant person who exclusive of the assistance of an attorney took on an epic process.

The book presents a victorious and attention-grabbing chronicle for most readers, but the book is also very enlightening and motivating for aspirant lawyers who do not have much of an idea about the ways in which the law works in the actual world and they perhaps need to be reminded that that the law is really about serving people. The main people recalled in the book are H. G. Cochran, Michael Rodak Jr, Abe Fortas, Judge Robert McCrary, etc.


    Gideon’s Trumpet is an articulate and edifying book which provides the reader with at the imperative tale which has never before occurred in the United States legal system. The book is recited with an adequate amount of side comments on the subject of the legal procedure and communal framework and it also proposes an extensive viewpoint of the ordinary people at the legal system.

 The book presents to the reader the story of Clarence Earl Gideon who was a petty thief previously. He conserved his documentation by applying for the slotting of a lawyer for him, and he filed an opportune appeal for doing so to the United States Supreme Court.

As luck would have it, even though the Florida courts deprived him of legal representation, the judges appointed Abe Fortas, to dispute his grounds. His triumph, ceaselessly setting up the right of the underprivileged to advocate in criminal act cases in America, was one of the milestone cases of the Warren Court.

Works Cited

Lewis, Anthony. Gideon’s Trumpet. United States of America. Vintage. ISBN-10: 0679723129  Page 5 and 8.  (1989)

Cite this page

Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis.1964. (2016, Dec 17). Retrieved from

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