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Gideon's Trumpet

67 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679723127
ISBN-10: 0679723129
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

A history of the landmark case of James Earl Gideon's fight for the right to legal counsel. Notes, table of cases, index. The classic backlist bestseller. More than 800,000 sold since its first pub date of 1964.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723127
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 93 people found the following review helpful By G. Ware Cornell Jr. VINE VOICE on February 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Clarence Earl Gideon, petty thief, did at least two things right in his life. He preserved his record by requesting the appointment of a lawyer for him, and he filed a timely petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.
Ironically, although the Florida courts denied Gideon legal represention, the Justices appointed Abe Fortas, soon to be one of their brothers, to argue his cause. His victory, forever establishing the right of the poor to counsel in felony cases in America, was one of the landmark cases of the Warren Court.
As importantly, this book illustrates law at the human level. This is where practioners routinely encounter it. Cases studied in law school are sterile, stripping the humanity and drama from the litigants, and replacing them with rules of decision and conduct necessary for societal regulation. The distillation of fact contained within an appellate decision, even a landmark, pales in comparison to the human beings who create the cause.
Anthony Lewis's book should point law students and young lawyers to the deeper lessons of practice. Law is about people; and we, as lawyers, are their servants.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dan on July 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Gideon's Trumpet is an eloquent and informative look at a very important story in the history of the United States legal system. Not only will it teach you about the evolution of the right to counsel from the case of Gideon v. Wainwright, but it teaches you much about the practices, intricacies and eccentricities of the Supreme Court and its members. This book should be considered essential and required reading for all law students. I loved it and learned much from it.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By P. Mann VINE VOICE on January 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
Clarence Earl Gideon would have been less than an historical footnote had he not written to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for, in essence, a "get out of jail free" card. Gideon, who would be a career criminal by contemporary definitions, was in a Florida jail for breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor. In his letter to the nation's highest court, Gideon wrote in pencil that his constitutional rights were violated when he was denied the right to have an attorney at his trial. In the end, the Supreme Court agreed with Gideon and reversed a prior decision to hold that people in Gideon's position (but not all accused persons) are entitled to the assistance of a lawyer and to have the state pay for one if necessary.
"Gideon's Trumpet" tells the story of one man's improbable battle and the Court's ultimate decision in his favor. Author Anthony Lewis has done a remarkable job of putting a human face (several, actually) on one of the landmark cases in criminal procedure and in making the story accessible to any adult regardless of a lack of formal legal training. In "Gideon's Trumpet," Lewis presents all of the characters as humans, not simply as people whose names later stand for legal rules (a la Miranda). "Gideon's Trumpet" also represents a ray of hope for those who think the legal system is solely the prerogative of the wealthy and politically connected, for here is the story of a virtual nobody who without the help of an attorney undertook a monumental process. In fact, "Gideon's Trumpet" might be a bit too optimistic. Written in 1964, the book could not have foreseen the subsequent studies that have shown that *Gideon v. Wainright* (the name of the case) has not substantially altered conviction rates. Still, the book tells a remarkable story quite well. Perhaps the highest praise is that this true story reads as a novel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Z. Blume on April 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic story about one man's struggle for justice. Gideon was a poor, career criminal who was denied counsel in Florida for a charge of petty theft who challenged his right to an attorney all the way to the Supreme Court.

Like all court cases, there are long, human stories that lead up to the actual trial, but unfortunately those are seldom told and the only record we are left with is court opinions. In this book, however, a New York Times reporter did a staggering amount of research to present Gideon's personal history, as well as the development of his case, the preparation of his lawyers, the actual legal machinations that led to him winning his case before the Court. It is triumphant and interesting story for most readers, but it is also very educational and inspirational for aspiring lawyers who really don't understand the way the law works in the real world and needs a reminder that the law is really about helping people. I would highly recommend this book.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By suzy murray on February 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
As Lewis documents the events surrounding the case of Gideon v. Wainwright, perhaps the most important case of the Warren Court era, he provides us with an easy-to-read yet insightful look at the workings of the Supreme Court and the interaction, and sometimes tension, between the federal and state courts. Lewis also provides a thoughtful commentary on the legitimacy of rules that issue from the courts as opposed to those that issue from our legislatures and in doing so, he provides his reader with a perspective of the Court's role in our democracy. This book made everything I learned in law school all the more clear. It is a wonderful explanation of American criminal and constitutional law for those who have legal training and for those who do not. Both readers will find Gideon's Trumpet accessible but also intellectually challenging.
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