About this item

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 Gideons 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.

About the Author

Karen Houppert

KAREN HOUPPERT was a contributing writer for The Washington Post magazine for many years. She also freelances for other magazines, covering social and political issues, and teaches in Masters in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University and in the journalism department at Morgan State University.A former staff writer for The Village Voice for nearly ten years, she has won several awards for her coverage of gender politics, including a National Women's Political Caucus Award, a 2003 Newswomen's Club of New York Front Page Award--and was twice an ASME National Magazine Award finalist. She has won numerous fellowships, grants and residencies including the 2008 Kaiser Media Fellowship, multiple Nation Institute Investigative grants, a Casey Journalism fellowship, a MacDowell Colony residency, two Mabou Mines artist residencies, and a New York State Council on the Arts grant.Houppert's reporting has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The Washington Post Magazine, The New York Times, Newsday, The Nation, Salon, Mother Jones, Ms, The Village Voice, The Detroit Free Press, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Redbook, Self, and Parenting.She is the author of three nonfiction books, a contributor to five, and co-author of the Obie-award winning play "Boys in the Basement" based on her trial coverage of the real-life rape in Glen Ridge, New Jersey--as well as several other plays.Her first book, The Curse: Confronting the Last Unmentionable Taboo, Menstruation (pub Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999) is an investigation into the sanitary protection industry and cultural history of menstruation. Houppert's second book, Home Fires Burning: Married to the Military--for Better or Worse (pub Ballantine, 2005) chronicles a year in the life of various military wives whose husbands are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. An Air Force brat herself who grew up on military bases across the country, Houppert wrote this book in the early days of the War in Iraq. Her newest book is called "Chasing Gideon: The Elusive Quest for Poor People's Justice" and is a look at the sorry state of indigent defense in this country today. Published on the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right to counsel for the poor, Houppert's investigation reveals that American's are routinely denied this basic Constitutional right in courtrooms all across the country.

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