Gideon’s Army

imageGideon’s Army (mentioned in my June 12th post) is premiering tonight at 9:00 PM on HBO. Three attorneys, who are products of the Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC), now known as Gideon’s Promise, are featured in this film.  Gideon’s Army is showing the world what public defenders really do – providing zealous representation to indigent defendants. Viewers will see how Gideon’s Promise is being fulfilled by an army of young, fire baptized attorneys who realize the importance of client centered representation.  Now, at this point you may be asking who or what is Gideon, what did he promise and who is in his army? 🙂 Well, I’m about to tell you.
Clarence Earl Gideon was convicted of breaking and entering (Burglary) on August 4, 1961. He represented himself during the first trial.  He appealed to the United States Supreme Court.  The US Supreme Court ordered a re-trial.  On August 5, 1963, the case was retried, this time with an attorney.  His attorney investigated the case and found out that a key witness against him may have actually committed the burglary (go figure).  As a result of the re-trial, he was acquitted. Below, you will find the verdict sheet from the first trial and Gideon’s handwritten appeal.
Gideon himself didn’t promise anything.  He was a poor prisoner who had been wrongly convicted.  But, the fact that he appealed his case created new law in the United States.  The result of the Gideon decision was that people who are charged with felonies, who can’t afford to retain private counsel, are entitled to free legal representation. Most people cannot afford to retain private counsel. As a result, they are represented by public defenders.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it), we live in a society that places more value in the things we pay for.  The more we pay for something, the more we seem to value it.  The same is true with many people (my clients, their families and the general public). But, once my clients get to know me, they learn that I care about them and the outcomes of their cases. This documentary will shed light for the general public about the great work that public defenders do.  I won’t even pretend that all public defenders are like the ones you will see in the film; there are some “bad apples.” But, there are bad apples in every bunch.  But, one goal of Gideon’s Promise (the training organization) is to ensure that there are fewer bad apples in our bunch (public defenders).
Gideon’s Army isn’t solely comprised of public defenders. It is comprised of judges, public defenders, their family members and friends and YOU.  You too can become a member of Gideon’s Army by donating to Gideon’s Promise.  To join this great movement click by making a donation, click here.  The purpose of Gideon’s Promise is to train young public defenders on the importance of client centered representation for indigent defendants while protecting our clients’ individual and collective rights.  The organization brings to fruition the promise made by the United States Supreme Court in the landmark decision – Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).
Below, you will see a photo of a paper weight that I have in my office.  It displays one of my favorite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes – “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And, as I like to say, small injustices count too. Because for a client, an injustice is an injustice is an injustice despite the nature of the crime with which they are charged.
My work twin is hosting a viewing party tonight.  We decorated last night, so needless to say I’m excited.  The premiere comes at a great time for me.  I’ve seen it; but, I am looking forward to seeing it with people who haven’t seen it.  I  spent the past several days in Macon at the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC), held at Mercer University Law School, with 95 other attorneys from across the nation. We learned new techniques that will enable us to be better lawyers to my clients. This training was intense, hands on and very thought provoking.  We enhanced and developed new techniques from client interview to closing arguments. I am looking forward to implementing some of the new techniques I’ve learned.
For public defenders, this documentary will inspire us to keep the fire burning deep within.  For those who know a public defender, it will really give you an inside look at what we do.  For those who (or whose family member(s)) have been represented by public defenders, and for the general public, it lets you see that we really do work hard.  Not only are we lawyers, we are social workers and therapists. There is also an opportunity to give to the cause, if you are fortunate enough to have the ability to do so.  Click here to be redirected to the Gideon’s Promise web site for more information and to make a donation to this wonderful program.
I invite you to tune in to the TV premiere of GIDEON’S ARMY at 9:00 PM on HBO. Tell your friends; tell your family. You will see three great attorneys fighting injustices, defending rights and doing good work…God’s work.
As always, I pray that you are blessed beyond measure!

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