Gideon's Army



Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100% · 11 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 88% · 250 ratings
IMDb Rating 7.7/10 10 837 837


Top cast

879.25 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 35 min
Seeds 15

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by HathB 10 / 10

A must-watch film

Every American should watch this documentary to find out what really goes in inside the criminal justice system. The incredible work that Public Defenders do is brought to life in this truly astonishing documentary.

The film follows the private and professional lives of three Public Defenders, revealing the extreme pressure under which they work, the level of connection and commitment they show to their clients, and the sense of privilege and honor they bring to their job. This is in spite of the fact that the pay they receive barely covers their grocery bills, and that they are required to manage up to 150 cases at a time.

Millions of Americans are arrested each year, many of them obviously for crimes they did not commit. and the only legal representation that more than half of these people receive is provided by just a few thousand Public Defenders across the country. This heart-warming and heart-breaking documentary gives viewers a realistic picture of the consequences.

Reviewed by McGheeTerry 8 / 10

An unflinching gavel of truth

Gideon's Army is a documentary film that tears the rusted lid off of the justice system to expose the hidden truths behind why Lady Justice wears a tear stained blindfold.

Dawn Porter is the founder of Trilogy Films and along with Motto Pictures and HBO Documentaries they follow the lives of three Public Defenders who give everything they have to strive to prove that a person accused of a crime shall indeed be held innocent until proved guilty in a court of law. Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick confirm the nightmares that anyone who has ever served as a juror knows first hand, that our justice system is flawed, and that the assumptions of guilt can quite easily be the downfall of the innocent.

The film deals heavily with the morality of personal struggle and in no way, shape, or form does it endorse or celebrate the protection of the heinous criminals who feed like parasites off of the dedication and hope of those who are there to attempt to counter balance the heavily laden scales of justice to give everyone a fair fight in court.

It is far too easy for those who have never experienced the cold hard glare of the American Justice System to sit back and assume that all is well, and that no person can be found guilty unless they are guilty. I mean, they must have done something to be arrested in the first place, right? Wrong! Gideon's Army is the gavel slamming hard against the well oiled and waxed table top of preconceived notions. Before you find yourself in front of a judge in a court of law as a defendant you should know just how stacked against you the deck truly is. Gideon's Army will give you a glimpse of the horrors that await, and also show you that through dedication and hard work, there are indeed a small group of people out there who are fighting just as hard as you are to keep you innocent until proved guilty.

Reviewed by Turfseer 8 / 10

Broken system or evil perpetrators? Idealistic public defenders push on no matter what, in this riveting documentary

'Gideon' in 'Gideon's Army', refers to the famed 1963 Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, where all criminal defendants, however indigent, were granted the right to a criminal defense. 'Gideon's Army' focuses specifically on three public defenders in the states of Mississippi and Georgia and three specific cases assigned to them.

In addition to these three cases, we also learn how the system is stacked against both the defendants and the public defenders who serve them. In all cases, it's basically a question of money. The state of Georgia is a particularly heinous example, when you can end up on $40,000 bail for shoplifting. June Hardwick, the Mississippi public defender highlighted (who subsequently left the profession) chronicles the case of a skilled mechanic who could have been placed in a pre-trial diversion program but ended up languishing in jail because she couldn't afford the $3,000 bail fee. Subsequently, this defendant lost all her tools and her home, while she had to remain in jail.

In addition to the defendants' woes, the public defenders themselves face mounting debts from student loans. Their salaries are extremely low and their caseloads are astronomical. One feels a great deal of sympathy for these beleaguered public servants (all who are black) and seem forgotten by a system that depends on their hard work.

The public defenders also are up against inflexible sentencing requirements which force them to invariably seek plea bargains, much to the detriment of their clients' rehabilitation. One of the Georgia public defenders, Travis Williams, defends a young man who was at the scene of a crime, where a knife was pulled by an acquaintance. He was facing 10 years minimum incarceration and a maximum sentence of life in prison and fortunately was able to plead down to Robbery by Intimidation. Williams wanted the Judge to give his client two years in the 'work house' but is given the maximum of 5 years incarceration plus probation by the hard-nosed judge.

The other main public defender, Brandy Alexander, defends the rare case where she's able to get her client off. Charged with an armed robbery of a grocery store, the defendant is identified by a store clerk who claims he's seen him hanging around the store many times. But Alexander cogently points out that the clerk never gave a description to the police noting the defendant's multiple tattoos and braces on his teeth. The jury refused to accept the prosecutor's argument that this was an air-tight case.

Also highlighted in the documentary is the Southern Public Defender Training Center, sort of a self-help group for public defenders. Indeed, the head of the organization, Jonathan Rapping, is perhaps the defenders' most vocal supporter. Rapping describes the system as "unjust, cruel" and "inhumane." While his support of public defenders is admirable, his support of the defendants as 'victims' of the system is skewed decidedly to the left. In contrast, some of Alexander's other tales are more sobering. She had one inmate charged with murder who she spent a lot of time with trying to help—only to find out later that the defendant told another inmate that he would kill her if he lost at trial. Another defendant bragged to her that he raped his 12 year old daughter.

'Gideon's Army' ably highlights a criminal justice system that often is inflexible when it comes to sentencing of criminal defendants. It also makes a case for higher pay for these public defenders, who are burdened by incredibly large caseloads and student loans that will take them years to pay off. On the other hand, creator/director Dawn Porter may be a tad bit too sympathetic in her view of defendants as victims. The reality is that most of the plea bargains that defendants agree to, are justified, because they're guilty. Alexander's young man, who she got off, is the exception to the rule.

Porter hits the mark when she argues for more flexibility when it comes to more leeway in regards to the laws and sentencing guidelines for defendants. Unfortunately, in certain states, such as in Georgia, you are going to find judges who can't understand that long prison sentences will only lead to chronic recidivism and little chance that the defendant will have any chance of turning his or her life around.

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