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Chasing Gideon

The Elusive Quest for Poor People's Justice
Houppert, Karen, 1962- (Book - 2013 )
Average Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Chasing Gideon
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Baker & Taylor
A veteran journalist investigates the way justice is delivered to the poor--and discovers a crisis in our nation's courts.

Perseus Publishing
On March 18, 1963, in one of its most significant legal decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that all defendants facing significant jail time have the constitutional right to a free attorney if they cannot afford their own. Fifty years later, 80 percent of criminal defendants are served by public defenders. In a book that combines the sweep of history with the intimate details of individual lives and legal cases, veteran reporter Karen Houppert movingly chronicles the stories of people in all parts of the country who have relied on Gideon’s promise.

There is the harrowing saga of a young man who is charged with involuntary vehicular homicide in Washington State, where overextended public defenders juggle impossible caseloads, forcing his defender to go to court to protect her own right to provide an adequate defense. In Florida, Houppert describes a public defender’s office, loaded with upward of seven hundred cases per attorney, and discovers the degree to which Clarence Earl Gideon’s promise is still unrealized. In New Orleans, she follows the case of a man imprisoned for twenty-seven years for a crime he didn’t commit, finding a public defense system already near collapse before Katrina and chronicling the harrowing months after the storm, during which overworked volunteers and students struggled to get the system working again. In Georgia, Houppert finds a mentally disabled man who is to be executed for murder, despite the best efforts of a dedicated but severely overworked and underfunded capital defender.

Half a century after Anthony Lewis’s award-winning Gideon’s Trumpet brought us the story of the court case that changed the American justice system, Chasing Gideon is a crucial book that provides essential reckoning of our attempts to implement this fundamental constitutional right.


Book News
In the 50 years since the Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the constitutional right to free counsel for the poor when accused of a crime, the problem of providing legal representation for poor defendants has reached crisis proportions. In this in-depth yet accessible exploration, Houppert (MA in Writing Program, Johns Hopkins University) analyzes Gideon v. Wainwright and four modern cases that are representative of the indigent defense crisis. The cases are made especially poignant with the voices and stories of the actual defendants caught in a dysfunctional system in which innocent people are routinely jailed and denied basic access to an attorney. The author also describes innovative efforts of committed lawyers and policymakers to fix the broken system. B&w photos of the defendants are included. The author's work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine and the New York Times. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Baker
& Taylor

On the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark case that led to free legal counsel for those who needed it, a veteran journalist investigates the way justice is delivered to the poor--and discovers a crisis in our nation's courts. 15,000 first printing.

Authors: Houppert, Karen, 1962-
Statement of Responsibility: Karen Houppert
Title: Chasing Gideon
the elusive quest for poor people's justice
Publisher: New York : The New Press, 2013
Characteristics: xi, 275 pages ; 24 cm
Content Type: text
Media Type: unmediated
Carrier Type: volume
Notes: "Earlier and shorter versions of the chapters "A Perfect Storm" and "Death in Georgia" were first published in The Nation."
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references
Contents: Due process theater : crushing caseloads drive reforms in Washington State
"I have no counsel" : how Clarence Earl Gideon fought for a lawyer and rocked the legal establishment : a look at the man behind Gideon v. Wainwright
A perfect storm : New Orleans' poor buffeted from all sides by the criminal justice system
Death in Georgia : behind the scenes of a capital murder trial, race and money play pivotal roles
Subject Headings: Right to counsel United States Legal assistance to the poor United States
Topical Term: Right to counsel
Legal assistance to the poor
LCCN: 2012047464
ISBN: 1595588698
9781595588692
Branch Call Number: 345.7305 H
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May 13, 2013
  • patienceandfortitude rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book is very readable and explains clearly the problems in the justice system as they pertain to indigent defense. The cards are stacked in favor of the prosecution in terms of funds and resources. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any ready answers to this problem and I suspect the audience for this book will be people who are already convinced that it is broken and needs fixing.

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