Top positive review
51 people found this helpful
FOR LEGAL BEAGLES EVERYWHERE...
on August 23, 2001
This is a movie made great by Henry Fonda's compelling portrayal of an unlikely folk hero,Clarence Earl Gideon, who was the catalyst for one of the most significant changes in our legal system. The seminal case of Gideon v. Wainright ultimately saw the United States Supreme Court establish that anyone who is charged with a crime is entitled to legal representation by an attorney.
Clarence Earl Gideon was no angel. He was a four time loser, who had been arrested for the burglary of a pool room. He did, however, maintain that he was innocent in this instance and demanded a trial, as he had no intention of pleading guilty for a crime that he did not commit. When Gideon, a semi illiterate, poorly educated man, requested an attorney to represent him at the trial, his request was denied, the presiding judge being of the mind that Gideon was able to represent himself. Gideon did not have a clue and, consequently, was convicted and sentenced to a five year prison term.
Gideon wrote an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which granted his appeal, and its justices set a new precedent with their ruling. His case was remanded to the Florida state court for a retrial. He was appointed an attorney, tried and, ultimately, acquitted of all charges, deservedly so, based upon the evidentiary weakness of the case against him. Justice delayed, however, is, as always, justice denied, as Gideon ended up serving two years in prison for a crime that he did not commit, before he was finally freed.
This is a terrific film with wonderful performances by the entire cast. Henry Fonda is superlative as the stalwart Gideon, whose innate sense of fair play and faith in the United States Constitution helped shape the legal system that we know today. This is a film well worth watching.