His book, “Gideon’s Trumpet,” about the 1963 Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the decision that guaranteed lawyers to poor defendants charged with serious crimes, inspired me to want to be a lawyer. Now that I’ve been a lawyer most of my adult life I’m not sure I should be grateful, but all that youthful idealism is something to remember. Anyway, the idea of an innocent man getting justice in the United States Supreme Court with a pauper’s brief was inspiring to my young mind. You don’t forget a book you sink yourself into during your formative years. The book has remained in print continuously since 1963.
Clarence Gideon had been convicted of being one of the conspirators to the burglary of a pool hall in the middle of the night in Panama City, Florida. He claimed he was innocent and didn’t even know the other burglars. His request for an attorney to represent him at trial was refused. Florida appointed counsel for poor defendants only in capital cases at that time.
At his later retrial with an attorney to represent him, his counsel easily uncovered the truth, that the chief witness for the prosecution against Gideon was in fact the lookout for the burglars. Gideon was just a guy that he happened to see walking down the street and had no part in the burglary. The conviction of an innocent man, based upon the false testimony of one of the actual criminals, is a gripping story of injustice. I was smitten.
Later, after I’d figured out that liberalism didn’t have America’s best interest at heart, and that Mr. Lewis was deeply in the liberal camp, I was naturally disappointed. Nevertheless, the man and book that influences the direction of one’s life will always be cherished. Rest in peace Anthony Lewis.