Today, we all live in a free society, which provides the population with a wide range of opportunities, emphasizing their equality in rights and liberty. People are considered initially innocent so that the law does not hurt them until their guilt is proved at a fair trial. Such approach is now the basis of the Bill of Rights, according to which the life of the society is ordered. Currently, depending on the financial situation that is experienced by the accused, one can hire an attorney who will try to prove his innocence or will be provided with a free public defender. However, this approach is not universal, and in Florida, those individuals who are not able to afford an attorney do not receive assistance and are expected to defend themselves. Thus, people today tend to question the role of the court, as they are not sure whether the trial can be considered fair when not all accused individuals are treated in the same way and have equal opportunities and rights. They also say that it may be advantageous if the states that already have some differences in the law would be given additional latitude to affect this situation.
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The problems highlighted previously can be discussed referring to the case that took place in Florida and attracted enormous public attention being discussed in a book and in a movie. Gideon’s Trumpet is a case study that reveals the situation in which a poor man was accused and had to defend himself in the court. Clarence Gideon broke into the Bay Harbor poolroom to rob it. The book written by Anthony Lewis reveals all stages of the judicial process that occurred after the petty larceny, which provides an opportunity to trace the events, discuss the role of the court in them and consider opportunities for improvement. The author considered Gideon’s case from various perspectives, allowing the readers to understand the judicial system better (Lewis 19). Still, even in this situation, people cannot come to the consensus. Some believe in the judicial self-restraint and are sure that the states should have an opportunity to consider how their legal system works without outside influences. They claim that social problems such as indigence should not interfere with the judicial system, and the court should not try to meet the needs and expectations of every person. Thus, those rights that poor people have should not be altered if the state is not willing to implement changes. Still, others believe that if the Bill of Rights ensures the opportunity to have a fair trial, equal conditions for all offenders should be maintained. They state that all individuals regardless of their financial condition should be able to receive an attorney. This debate is not over yet, and the role the courts in the country remains vague.
In Gideon’s case, the man was arrested for the alleged commission of a crime. At that time he was not even aware of the right to have an attorney who would have protected him. After the preliminary examination, the grand jury indictment was made as well as the arraignment. The offender requested for assigned counsel but received refusal and had to be his own lawyer. Being not a professional, the man failed, was charged guilty and sentenced. Of course, if Gideon got an attorney it still would not ensure the opportunity to face another verdict. However, his chances to obtain the maximum sentence would be minimalized. Fortunately, the man refused to give up and appealed to the US Supreme Court and counsel for him was assigned. It is critical to mention that the Florida Supreme Court refused to do the same, which lead to the maximum sentencing. In this way, if the court not just accepted people as they are allowing them to get what they are able to, the outcome of the case could be different. Gideon could have avoided this sentence and could have spent less time in the prison. It would also have a positive impact on his condition and interaction with the society, as people who were once convinced guilty are then often stigmatized and suffer from bad treatment. In this way, the court had the power to affect the outcomes of the case.
Refusing to provide a public defender, Florida’s court increased the gap between different populations and emphasized the fact that people are not equal. It made an ordinary man debate with a professional, so the way the trial would finish was already clear. Some people may say that the role of the court is to judge, paying no attention to biases such as poverty. Still, the judgment should be made on the basis of the information that is provided by the individuals who are well-aware of how the trial process is held and how the law can be used to prove and disprove people’s claims. A fair judgment presupposes the presence of equally authoritative statements that the judge and the jury receive from the attorneys. In Gideon’s case, this element was neglected, and the conclusion was made on the basis of information provided by a professional who knew how to build a case and a man who was not aware of such peculiarities (Kennedy para. 7). The court did not consider that its task was to prove that the defendant was guilty, and its role turned out to be distorted. It made the decision that it initially considered to be right. The inability of the defendant to provide those facts that can lead to the positive outcome allows the court to make subjunctive decisions, which is unacceptable.
Gideon’s case altered the procedure and influenced the role of the court. It showed that the presumption of innocence could really work and protect the representatives of the general public from being accused regardless of their financial status. The right to have an attorney became general and any person could have one if needed. The court started to play the role of the body which executes those decisions that are likely to protect and support the representatives of the general public, including the defendant. It developed a requirement according to which one can have an attorney even before being questioned or charged so that during the trial both parties can provide well-grounded proofs of their claims.
Due to the fact that the USA operates under the case-by-case system, such situations as the one observed in Gideon’s case play an extremely vital role in the development of the court’s role and the way the judicial process is maintained (Rostain 174). All those changes made a court a party that resolves disputes with the help of a fair legal process that tends to make all representatives of one party equal. People refer to the court, as they seek the resolution of the problem that was faced, but the attorneys are those professionals who take the active part in the procedures and act as the representatives of the parties. Courts are in charge of listening to both sides and making the final decision about what has happened and what actions are to be undertaken further (Broyles 27). Their judgment indicates whether the defendant is guilty and should be punished. Depending on the information obtained from the attorneys, they also define the type of the punishment and its duration. Courts are those institutions that encourage and give an opportunity to have a peaceful dispute resolution (Thomson Reuters 2).
With the help of Gideon’s case speedy trials started to be often held, as they tend to lead to the fairest outcomes. They are those trials that are conducted with regard to particular fixed rules and ensure the most equal and unbiased treatment (The Law Dictionary para. 1). Before that time, the regulations were not that clear, and the court could ignore some rules that today are considered to be essential. Of course, the situation cannot be changed already, but it would be much better if the court acted as the institution that allows the representatives of the general public to resolve their disputes in a peaceful manner speaking through the attorneys who are professionals in the judicial sphere and are able to provide essential information for the jury and the judge to make a fair and decent verdict. The court was and is to be a body that supports people, searches for truth and benefits for those who require protection.
Broyles, Scott. Criminal Law in the USA, Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2011. Print.
Kennedy, Robert. Gideon’s Trumpet – How the US Supreme Court Really Works. 2012. Web.
Lewis, Anthony. Gideon’s Trumpet, New York: Vintage Books, 2011. Print.
Rostain, Tanina. Lawyers and the Legal Profession, Surrey: Ashgate, 2008. Print.
The Law Dictionary. What Is Speedy Trial? 2016. Web.
Thomson Reuters. The Role of Courts in Government. 2013. Web.