Review: Gideon's Trumpet

Gideon's Trumpet
Gideon's Trumpet
Anthony Lewis
New York: Vintage Books, 1964

Review Copyright © 2003 Garret Wilson — 17 February 2003 12:15pm

Anthony Lewis tells the story of Clarence Earl Gideon, the stubborn prisoner whose case caused the Supreme Court to require states to provide attorneys to anyone, accused of a crime, who could not afford one. Gideon's Trumpet is longer than it had to be, but that doesn't impede the reading and only helps turn a single case into a much larger educational experience. Lewis explains how the Supreme Court works, explores different theories of Fourteenth Amendment incorporation of rights that are still relevant to today's criminal procedure, and discusses the history and use of amicus curiae briefs.

Lewis presents the case as a real-life occurrence, showing Gideon's crankiness and eccentricities. He shows the historical setting of the events, and then shows how the the facts behind the case make for an exciting story with a few twists, such as the opposition's plans for amicus filings that backfired. Gideon's Trumpet provides a sense of satisfaction from justice being served, while recounting a historical event; explaining judicial process and the inner workings of the Supreme Court; and illustrating the humanness that drives the whole business.