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    Anthony Lewis, Gideon's Trumpet
    Clarence Earl Gideon was not an important man. He didn't inspire the masses and commit hideous murders. He probably wouldn't have even made a mark on my memory if not for this book. But after it, I will probably never forget him. Gideon was a 51-year-old white man from the South who made a career out of being a crummy criminal. As a poor, illiterate man he was convicted and incarcerated without access to a lawyer. According to Betts v. Brady, an older Supreme Court decision, accused criminals aren't guaranteed counsel as part of due process as long as there was basic fairness in court proceedings. Gideon, unaware of this somewhat outmoded precedent, petitioned the Supreme Court to reassess his case since he wasn't granted counsel.

    When he submitted this brief in forma pauperis to the Supreme Court, he didn't expect to be challenging a Supreme Court decision or threatening the very balance of federalism, but that is exactly what he did. The reason Betts v. Brady existed for as long as it did was because it awarded the states a free hand in determining how this aspect of their courts ran. If Gideon won his appeal, then the national judicial branch would be extending its power further into the states. However, when asked by the defending counsel to write supporting briefs to keep Betts v. Brady intact, the states resoundingly supported Gideon and the right to counsel. In the end, Gideon won his case in front of the Supreme Court in part because of the state's support, in part because of superior counsel and in part because he was ultimately right.

    The greatest part of the book is not in its content, but its craft. The author so delicately weaves a complex case history with an individual man's story, while interjecting basic law principles. And he manages to keep it interesting and engaging without being condescending to the reader. As an example of long-form journalism, this should be a paradigm.