Chief Justice

Gideon’s Trumpet was first released in 1980 under the direction of Robert E. Collins, with Acorn Media as its distributor. Henry Fonda played the role of Clarence Earl Gideon, a poor, ill-tempered Florida handyman who is arrested for theft in 1961. Other important actors/actresses were as follows: John Houseman (Chief Justice), Jose Ferrer (Abe Fortas), David Clennon (James Fitzpatrick), and Fay Wray (Edna Curtis). Movie Synopsis An unknowing Clarence Gideon was arrested by the police on the charge of petty theft. His inability to afford a lawyer led to his conviction – a five year sentence to the state prison.His treatment by the Florida judicial system was a clear violation of the 14th Amendment. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reads: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.It was evident that Gideon’s treatment in prison was a deprivation of life, liberty, and personal happiness. Gideon’s condition was brought to the US Supreme Court. The Court argued that the 14th Amendment indirectly assured free legal representation/assistance for anyone accused of any crime in the United States. Jose Ferrer, Gideon’s legal counsel bade the court to establish a free legal department of the judiciary. However, this was put in a stationary condition. Gideon won the trial.The theme of the movie can be summarized as follows: the right to free legal assistance is never a departure from the precept of the 14th Amendment. While the theme is a legalistic definition of reality, it upholds one of the fundamental principles of civilization: the principle of fairness. Gideon’s personal appeal to the court for merit of defense as well as his personal demand to his counsel for a speedy review of his case was perhaps one of the condescending scenes in the movie. His personal appeal helped in the refinement of the principle of procedural fairness as determined by the 6th and 14th Amendments.Here, Gideon represented the relative injustice of the system. The prison guard and the prison in general symbolized the evil of the American prison system. However, the dialectics of good and evil was never the main focus of the movie, rather the power of the individual to pursue and defend his/her rights. Although falls to the category of a classic film, it represented reality in its most natural and fundamental form. Its lesson was: the happiness of the individual is dependent first and foremost on the fairness of the political system.