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Crossroads Progressive Women hosting film on justice

By by bianca r. montes bmontes@vicad.com
Jan. 29, 2014 at 4:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2014 at 7:29 p.m.

Public defender Brandy Alexander at her client's arraignment in Clayton County Court.

If you go

• WHAT: "Gideon's Army" screening

• WHEN: 6-8 p.m. Monday

• WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium at the University of Houston-Victoria, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

• COST: Free

• "Gideon's Army" follows three young public defenders who challenge the assumptions of a criminal justice system in the Deep South. The movie has won awards at the Tribeca Film Institute and Sundance Film Festival.

Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested in 1961 for stealing sodas and a couple dollars from a Panama City, Fla., pool hall. He couldn't afford an attorney and was forced to represent himself at trial, where he ultimately was convicted of theft.

His case, after going to the United States Supreme Court in appeal, was a landmark case in which the court ruled that the right to counsel in a criminal case was fundamental.

Fast forward several years, and a documentary titled "Gideon's Army" follows three young public defenders in the Deep South who, despite being overwhelmed by impossible caseloads and menial paychecks, are still determined to provide a solid defense for their clients.

The members of the Crossroads Progressive Women group are inviting the community out for a free screening of the documentary Monday in the Alcorn Auditorium at the University of Houston-Victoria.

"The movie makes us think about something we might not have known about," said member Nina Di Leo. "Something society in some ways wants us to forget about."

Crossroads Progressive Women, which began in May 2005 under the leadership of Peggy Miller, is centered around servicing the community, supporting women in public office and studying social issues, such as education and health care.

"Gideon's Army" was written by Matthew Hamachek and Dawn Porter and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

Following the screening, Criminal Justice Professor Michele Quinones will lead a conversation about the film.

"'Gideon's Army' is not just a film about lawyers and defendants but about people dedicated to justice. The director takes you into their lives and what drives their dedication to protect the rights of their defendants," she said. "Surprisingly, though, you also become invested in the lives of the accused - at times, you almost forget it's not your liberty at stake. Before you know it, the film has challenged your perceptions of lawyers and criminals and about our justice system. I hope this will inspire an open discussion about the state of indigent defense in America."

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