Gideon’s Army is a crime documentary that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2013.
When the film opens, we are introduced to a public defender, Travis Williams, who is struggling to defend the poor in court. He gives the viewers a brief tour of his apartment, which is located next to his workplace and holds very little momentous items because he has no wife and children.
Brandy Alexander is a Clayton County, Georgia public defender that spends her days trying to find a way to spare the criminally convicted from prison. She speaks to a seventeen year old, who is facing life in prison, due to a home invasion and robbery.
Public self help groups are set up for the public defenders that allows them to open up, about their experiences with the American criminal system. One member admitted to relying on the group to help her continue fighting to help the poor to get their convictions overturned. They speak about how difficult it is to represent a child molester or a statutory rape suspect, but they are forced to treat these cases, just like any other.
The defenders deal with people that society does not care about or do they want to admit that they do exist. The justice system forces the poor convicted to plead guilty. If they have no money for their bond, then they are forced to sit in jail forever. If they ever get released back into society, they will not be allowed to vote or may not be able to find employment.
Brandy speaks about how one of her clients was not satisfied with her representation, even after she spent many hours with him at the jail because he had no one else. He was devising a plan to murder her, but was found out, before he got a chance to act on his plan.
Congressman John Lewis gives a speech to the public defenders and thanks them for their service that they provide for the poor.
June Hardwick is another public defender that works diligently trying to help those that were convicted, without proper representation. One prisoner speaks, about how she was wronged by the justice system and lost everything, when she was locked up on her first offense of cocaine possession. She eventually leaves the public defender’s office because of the lack of pay and could no longer afford to live on the twenty dollars that was left out of her bi-weekly paycheck, after she paid her bills.
All of the public defenders complain, about how little they are paid. They are still paying their student loans, credit card bills, rent, and utilities, while surviving on less than three hundred dollars for a two week period of time for groceries and petroleum.
Travis is struggling with not knowing who is biological father is and sets out to find him. He denies wanting a father, but still wants to know his name. Brandy’s father comes in for a quick visit from Florida and she decides to go skydiving.
The public defenders work with the county prosecutors to work out a plea deal for each of their cases. They also set down and explain to them that they have the right to plea not guilty, but most of the defendants decide to plead guilty because they feel that it is in their best interest.
Most of the defendants are victims of society because they did not have a good upbringing and ended up in the welfare system, which makes children angry and aggressive over time.
Gideon’s Army is definitely a great watch and if you want to see how different the justice system treats those that are poor and those that are rich. It is great to see public defenders that truly care, about the outcome of their young defendants. It is sad to hear Brandy say, “we don’t see happy ever afters very often in this profession”, which I am sure is true. This film is definitely an eye opener for anyone that thinks the justice system is flawless. Although, these defendants have committed some of the worst crimes on society it is still sad to see their demise and how they will rot away in the penal system if they are convicted. It remains to be seen if these defendants are cleared of their charges, whether or not they will continue to commit crimes, until they are locked up behind bars for life.
The film is perfectly edited and held my attention throughout. I really enjoyed watching Gideon’s Army and feel that it deserves an 8 out of 10.