1 Defender Connections Gideon's Promise recognizes the following organizations for their support: Atlanta's John Marshall Law School Equal Justice Works Ford Foundation Open Society Foundations Samford University Trilogy Films US Dept of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Upcoming Events Annual DC Holiday Party Washington, DC December 7, 2013 Programming Winter Training The Westin Atlanta Airport Atlanta, GA January 24-26, 2014 Summer Law Clerk Training Atlanta, GA May Trainer Development Conference Atlanta, GA June 6-8, 2014 Summer Institute Samford University Birmingham, AL Reflections From Our Executive Director As the year is slowly coming to a close, let us take time to reflect on some of the major anniversaries that we shared this year. We were able to honor courageous individuals who made huge sacrifices that lead to monumental changes in our nation's history. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This historic march for equality included over 300,000 people from across the nation and was considered one of the largest human rights protests for economic fairness and freedom that the country, at that time, had ever seen.  Lead by civic, religious, and labor leaders, the march for African Americans to be given the same opportunities as their white counterparts was a turning point that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act one year later. Without this march and other forms of civil protest like the Bus Boycott and the Woolworth sit-in, many African Americans would not be experiencing the quality of life that those that came before them worked so hard to achieve. As the year closes, we should not forget the unknown foot soldiers who were on the front lines of these protests, sit-ins and marches. They are the unknown soldiers who, with unwavering faith and courage, charged forward through tear-gassed buses, attacking police dogs, stone throwing mobs, and verbal attacks to fight for what they knew to be right. Through the courage of a collective of committed individuals, some of whose names we will never know, we are moving closer towards racial equality and equal justice. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon vs. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court decision that declared an obvious truth; that lawyers serve as the engine needed to ensure a fair trial and that there can therefore be no equal justice unless poor people have the same quality advocates that those with means would pay for. This critical holding was the end result of a battle fought by a small town wanderer named Clarence Earl Gideon. Mr. Gideon appealed his Florida conviction of felony theft by writing a letter to the US Supreme Court. The Court decided that a criminal defendant who cannot afford an attorney must be provided one at no cost to the accused. Mr. Gideon was subsequently retried with a lawyer and found not guilty. This decision led to the establishment of public defender offices across the country. Without Gideon, many people in this country would appear in court without representation facing life altering consequences. Although, as a society, we ve come a long way since the March on Washington and the Gideon v. Wainwright decision, we have a long way still to go; and nowhere is that distance greater than in our criminal justice system. With 2.3 million people locked up in our nation s prisons and jails, we are facing a human rights crisis. Eighty percent of those accused of crimes are poor and they are disproportionately people of color. Entire communities are being devastated by the consequences of our criminal justice policies. Criminal justice in America is anything but equal. When one looks at the state of public defense, this sad reality should come as no surprise. Gideon s promise has never been fulfilled. Heroic public defenders, saddled with unmanageable caseloads and deprived necessary resources battle a growing criminal justice system every day. These foot soldiers struggle to hold the line every day as an avalanche of injustice rains down on them. They need reinforcement. Gideon s Promise is committed to fighting to get them the support they need to help our nation live up to its highest ideals. This newsletter catalogs some of the year s successes; accomplishments that could not have happened without our amazing community of supporters. August 1-16, 2014  (continued on page 2)
2 Defender Connections Page 2 Continued.. Reflections From Our Executive Director Executive Director Ilham Askia We opened 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival where Gideon s Army, a project we worked on with Trilogy Films and HBO premiered. The award-winning film, which features Gideon s Promise and follows three of our public defenders, aired on HBO in July and continues to screen across the country, raising awareness of the heroic and necessary struggles public defenders go through every day. We were honored to have President Jimmy Carter deliver the keynote address at our annual Joining for Justice Awards Dinner in Atlanta, where he recognized Gideon s Promise as a necessary part of the solution of the criminal justice crisis. We continued our partnership with the United States Department of Justice as it awarded Gideon s Promise a $1M grant to continue its work to reform indigent defense. We graduated another class of future leaders and welcomed a new class to help strengthen our movement. We have continued to spread our reform model further across the country. We continue to build partnerships with visionary public defender leaders. We intensified our outreach to raise awareness of the criminal justice crisis. And, most importantly, our lawyers have continued to touch tens of thousands of lives each year. All of these accomplishments, and more, are shared in this newsletter. Welcome to the Gideon's Promise Class of Our movement is growing Quotes from the Class of 2013 : This training inspired me to be a better person and public defender. I think I am better prepared to now be the kind of public defender/attorney my clients need and deserve. The second week really solidified my confidence level. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this. I am confident not only in the skills I have learned but in the people I have met. Trial skills make me a better lawyer; this community gives me the strength to be a better person. I ve learned too much to list here. Coming to this program was one of the best decisions I ve ever made. It has been such a rewarding experience. In conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, this year we changed our name from the Southern Public Defender Training Center to Gideon's Promise to reflect the fact that our mission is to build a comprehensive movement of public defenders to transform the criminal justice system and to ensure equal justice for our clients. Our transformational model is comprehensive, beginning with our Core Program for new public defenders. Following the Core Program, our lawyers can join our Graduate Program, designed to continue to develop alumni into trainers, mentors, and future leaders. Our Leadership Program provides an opportunity for the leaders in our partner offices to come together every six months for leadership training and workshops designed to help participants develop strategies to address challenges confronting their offices. Through our Trainer Development Program we are teaching public defender trainers and law school clinicians our model in order to help groom a generation of reformers nationally. And through our Law Clerk program we are inspiring the most promising future defenders to join our movement and to work in systems with the greatest need. Every six months Gideon's Promise brings our community of public defenders together who are committed to both raising the standard of representation for our clients immediately and to forging a movement to drive indigent defense reform in the future. Each year we invite a new class to join the Summer Institute, a fourteen-day "boot camp" that marks the start of the Gideon's Promise experience. The two weeks begin with a banquet where the new class is greeted by the rest of the community. This year, with nearly two-hundred public defenders packing the banquet hall, we welcomed the thirty-six members of the Class of 2013, bringing the total number of new public defenders trained through Gideon's Promise to over 250. The excitement in the room was palpable as Gideon's Promise veterans recalled our first gathering in 2007 when a room of about twenty-five welcomed the first class of 16 new public defenders. As we began the fourteen-day Summer Institute, we were joined by Susan Burton, a formerly incarcerated community organizer from Los Angeles who founded A New Way of Life to help formerly incarcerated women transition back into the community. Susan, an often honored leading voice in criminal justice reform joined us to learn how we are training our defenders to bring humanity back to an often inhumane system, and to represent each client with dignity and respect in the most challenging environments. As she left, Susan told the class that she had always been 'skeptical that public defenders could make a difference, but that her experience at Gideon's Promise gave her a renewed sense of hope that they could play a transformative role.' Susan Burton Anyone who spent a few days with these thirty-six passionate, dedicated advocates could not help but be inspired. This year's class hails from Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Ten of the Class of 2013 joined us through a partnership with the Harris County (Houston, TX) public defender office, funded by a grant from the Department of Justice, designed to raise the standard of representation among the court-appointed bar in that county. Other members come from established partner offices like Atlanta (Fulton and DeKalb Counties), Charleston (WV), Dallas, Knoxville, Lafayette, Memphis, and Nashville, as well as new partners including Fayette County, GA, St. Tammany Parish, LA, and the Innocence Project of New Orleans. We are so happy to have the Class of 2013 with us!
3 Edition: End of Year Wrap-Up Page 3 President and Mrs. Carter Join Gideon's Promise at our Annual Joining for Justice Awards Dinner President Jimmy Carter shared his personal experience with the criminal justice system. The President expressed how friends close to his family faced unfair treatment in the criminal justice system and because of their socio-economic background were given inadequate counsel or faced harsh sentences. He stated that "[criminal justice reform] is this generation's civil rights movement and everyone should support the work of Gideon's Promise." With those words, President Carter wrapped up a stirring keynote address and thanked everyone in attendance. US Department of Justice Awards (DOJ) $1M Grant to Support Gideon's Promise's Work This month the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, announced $6.7M in grants to support criminal and civil legal services. Of this, $1M was awarded to Gideon's Promise to support the training and mentorship of new public defenders, to train public defender trainers and supervising attorneys, support public defender leaders and build relationships with tribal defenders. We are ecstatic to be working with the Department of Justice once again to find creative solutions to improving indigent defense in systems with the greatest need. We began our partnership with DOJ in 2010 when the Office of Justice Programs funded the Public Defender Corps, a joint initiative between Gideon's Promise and Equal Justice Works, which helped us place 37 Fellows in under resourced public defender offices and provide them training and support through our Core "101" Program. With this latest grant, the partnership with the Department of Justice will allow us to continue to bring the next generation of advocates to support indigent clients as well as work with public defender leaders to export the Gideon's Promise model nationally. Gideon's Promise Launches Law School Partnership Project (LSPP) Fifty years after the Gideon decision, it is clear that we will not realize Gideon's promise unless a strong movement of those most committed to justice join together to make equal justice a reality. Unquestionably, law schools should play a significant role in helping their graduates become advocates for justice. Through the LSPP, Gideon's Promise is partnering with law schools, and public defender offices to groom a generation of change agents in criminal justice systems with the greatest need. Many of the nation's law students most passionate about public defense are eager to join the Gideon's Promise movement. Our partner public defender offices would love to hire these committed defenders and help them develop into tomorrow's leaders. But because of the early deadlines to register to take the Bar examination, law students need to have job offers six to eight months before they will be available to practice. Our partner offices simply cannot hold positions open for that long, leaving needy clients to be absorbed by already overburdened existing staff. As a result, the greatest opportunity we have to transform indigent defense, getting our brightest future defenders to offices with the greatest need and giving them the training and support they need to succeed, is frustrated. The LSPP solves this problem. Law schools will support graduates for no more than one year, through existing (or newly created) fellowships, grants, or stipends. Our partner offices will hire these graduates with the guarantee that they will be moved into a permanent position within the first year. Gideon's Promise will commit to providing three years of training and support to help the graduate succeed. Together we can solve the problem of committed law school graduates having no way to become involved in the effort to reform indigent defense where the need is greatest. We launched the LSPP this fall with three schools, the University of California Los Angeles, American University Law and New York University Law. We plan to include more in the coming months. This opportunity is made possible by a generous grant from the Department of Justice, part of which will support the LSPP lawyers' participation in Gideon's Promise. Gideon's Promise Hosts Interfaith Social Justice Breakfast Last month, Gideon's Promise reached out to an array of religious leaders in order to build a partnership with Atlanta's interfaith community. The result was our first Interfaith Social Justice Breakfast held at the Hope Center at Ebenezer Baptist Church. If one took in the framed articles in the hallways of the Center, one might have noticed a very powerful message by Reverend Joseph Lowery, who has been called the Dean of the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. Lowery noted that "you can't build a movement without young people." At Gideon's Promise, we also believe that it will take a new generation to affect change. The Interfaith Breakfast was an opportunity for Gideon's Promise Executive Director, Ilham Askia, and President Jonathan Rapping to introduce our work to Atlanta's faith communities. The two drew parallels between the work of the young civil rights workers of the 1960s and the work of our public defenders who are collectively building a movement to make Gideon's promise a reality. Understanding that the communities they serve are greatly impacted by our criminal justice system, the room of religious leaders were excited to continue to work to strengthen this new partnership with Gideon's Promise. Gideon's Army Goes National In addition to building a movement of defenders to drive reform in the jurisdictions with which we partner, Gideon's Promise is committed to raising awareness about the indigent defense crisis and fostering grass roots support to drive reform. One of the partnerships in this effort of which we are most proud began four years ago when we began working with film maker, Dawn Porter, to create a film to raise public awareness of the crisis and the heroic work our community of lawyers is doing to combat it. Our first break came when the Ford Foundation, one of Gideon's Promise's most committed supporters, agreed to support this project. The next break came when HBO bought the film, promising to give this project a national audience. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, then winning the award for best editing!
4 Defender Connections Page 4 Continued.. Gideon's Army Goes National On July 1, 2013, HBO aired Gideon's Army, produced by Trilogy Films in association with Motto Pictures. Throughout that month, HBO served as a platform to educate America about the heroic and challenging work of our nations' public defenders and the importance of the Gideon's Promise model to keeping them supported and inspired. The film's power lives on as it is being screened at law schools, film festivals, movie theaters, and conferences across the country. Arguably no project has done more to raise public awareness of the importance of the right to counsel and the consequences of failing to live up to it since Gideon's Trumpet brought the seminal case of Gideon v. Wainwright to the public attention in first, a book by Anthony Lewis, and later a featured movie starring Henry Fonda. Thanks to Dawn Porter, the Ford Foundation, Trilogy Films, Motto Pictures, HBO, the foot soldiers of Gideon's Promise, and our nation's public defenders for helping to remind our nation of its most cherished ideals. Partner Shout Outs On October 21, the Jefferson County Community Law Office opened its doors to become the largest full time public defender office in the State of Alabama. This office and the Tuscaloosa Public Defender Office are two critical Gideon's Promise partner offices as we work to help raise the standard of representation in Alabama. Chief defender Kira Fonteneau, joined our leadership community when she was first appointed and has relied on our community to help her build this office. Gideon's Promise has worked with Fontenau's supervisors and staff in their effort to make Gideon's promise a reality in Birmingham. We are honored to partner with them in this effort. This year we launched a two-year partnership with the Harris County Public Defender and the Department of Justice, to raise the standard of representation provided by the court-appointed bar in that county. Because the Harris County public defenders represent a small minority of indigent defendants in Houston, raising the quality of the court-appointed bar is a critical part of indigent defense reform in that county. Thanks to a generous grant from the Department of Justice, we welcomed ten new lawyers, committed to representing poor clients through court appointments, into the Class of 2013 and look forward to bringing another ten into next year's Class. When Alex Bunin, the Chief Defender in Harris County, approached us with this idea we were excited to strengthen our partnership with his office (Alex had already joined our leadership community). This initiative is one example of how we continue to find creative ways to partner with systems. We welcomed our first lawyer from Fayette County, Georgia into the Class of We had been working with Allen Adams, the Circuit Defender responsible for Fayette County, to find ways to get his lawyers involved in our effort. However, his office simply could not afford to send a lawyer to our program. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to offer a full scholarship to Alisha Marie Scott, a passionate, young defender in Mr. Adam's office. We hope to continue to build on this first step and are pleased to add Fayette County to a growing list of partner offices in Georgia. Gideon's Promise 2013 Awardees: Stephen B. Bright Public Defender Award - Beau Rudder Each year the Stephen B. Bright Award is awarded to a person or group that has had a significant impact on the work of Gideon's Promise. This year that honor went to Beau Rudder, the Director of Training for the Office of the State Public Defender in Jackson, MS, in recognition of his effort to help Gideon's Promise build a strong partnership with the public defenders of Mississippi. As the first Director of Training for the state, Beau has been able to define the training curriculum. From the beginning he has incorporated elements of the Gideon's Promise model and invited Gideon's Promise faculty members from across the country to assist with training. Beau has also been instrumental in recruiting Mississippi defenders to join Gideon's Promise and in securing funding to help defray the costs. Lifetime Achievement Award - Emmet Bondurant In September, Gideon's Promise awarded its first annual Lifetime Achievement Award to Emmet Bondurant. In addition to being a nationally recognized trial lawyer with numerous achievements that could fill their own newsletter, Emmet Bondurant has dedicated his career to fighting for the voiceless in our legal system. He has engaged in pro bono litigation, including death penalty, habeas corpus, reapportionment, and other civil rights and constitutional cases. Emmet was a driving force behind legislation establishing Georgia's statewide public defender system in 2003 and served as the first Chair of the Georgia Public defender Standards Council when it took effect in He has used this position to advocate tirelessly for the rights of the indigent accused. While his uncompromising insistence on justice has not always been popular, he is widely respected by all who know him. As a member of the Board of Gideon's Promise, Emmet continues to attract prominent supporters to the indigent defense cause. Gideon's Foot Soldier Award - Brett Willis Gideon's Promise recognizes defenders on the front line of Gideon s Army with the Gideon's Foot Soldier Award. This award recognizes a public defender who has maintained a passion for the work and a commitment to the people they serve while continuing to toil in the trenches daily. The first annual Gideon's Foot Soldier Award was given to Brett Willis of Hall County, GA. Brett was a member of the Honors Program Class of 2005, joined Gideon's Promise when it was established in 2007, and continues to serve as a mentor and trainer to our lawyers as a member of our Graduate Program, while maintaining a full caseload of clients who need him desperately.
5 Edition: End of Year Wrap-Up Page 5 Stories from the Field : Actual Accounts in the Day and the Life of a Gideon s Promise Public Defender Name: Ashley Adams Class: 2011 Office: Tuscaloosa, AL I recently had a client who was deaf. He could not read above an 8th grade level nor did he know American Sign Language. I felt very strongly about his case and thought that it would be a great trial case. On the day of the trial, he finally revealed to me (he could talk, but not very clearly) that he didn t want a trial and never really did. He just wanted everything to be over; he wanted to plead guilty. I realized that I was actually the deaf one in our relationship: I had not been listening to what my client wanted. Listening to our clients and structuring their case to fit their goals is a skill that Gideon s Promise emphasizes. Amazingly, it might be one of the hardest skills to teach and to retain, but I am constantly working to improve that skill. Thank you, Gideon s Promise. Name: Adam Braunbeck Class: 2011 Office: Louisville, KY Gideon s Promise taught me the importance of humanizing the people I represent. I represented a man who pled guilty and accepted a lengthy prison sentence in order to preserve his eligibility for probation or parole. (If convicted at trial, he faced a minimum sentence of ten years without the possibility of probation or parole.) I was always frank with him about his chances of receiving probation with his record, there was almost no chance any judge would probate his sentence. But I could tell that he was still holding out hope for probation, and I wasn t looking forward to the disappointment he would feel when the court inevitably denied my motion to probate his sentence. When I received his pre-sentence report, I realized just how impossible my job would be. Pages six through fifteen of the report detailed his extensive felony record. It went back almost twenty-five years and included multiple failed attempts at probation and parole. I knew about his record, but seeing it laid out in the report, line-by-line, over nine pages, was still shocking. Then I realized that I was shocked because I had known the man I represented for almost a year. And the man I knew could never have done any of those things on pages six through fifteen. Those crimes were not the man I knew, they were the substance-abuse and mental -health problems that followed this man his entire adult life. So I stood up and spoke to the court as the only person in the room who knew the man sitting next to me at the defense table. I told the court about the person I knew, and why that man deserved probation. When I was finished, the court denied my motion and sent the man I represented to prison. A week later, I got a letter from him. The first line was, Thank you for the Awesome job you did in court!! I ve received three more letters since that one, all talking about the positive things he is doing while in custody and looking forward to his shock-probation motion in six months. The court took his freedom, but it didn t take his hope. I could not have done this without the training I received at Gideon s Promise. Name: Jacinta Hall Class: 2008 Office: Memphis, TN I was ready to quit, ready to move on. For two years, I d worked diligently as a Public Defender for my clients, but I needed more. I didn t feel fulfilled. I felt a part of the system. That s when I learned about Rap and Gideon s Promise (SPDTC). Not only did I gain a family, who understands the personal and systemic struggles of being a Public Defender, but I also gained the confidence and knowledge needed to more effectively advocate for my clients. Last year, three juries freed three of my clients, in large part due to the trainings and support given through Gideon s Promise. I now understand my purpose in this work. Nothing can replace the fulfillment of being a voice for my often silenced clients. Quotes from the Class of 2013 : This training has helped me and changed my practice in so many ways I am not alone! There are so many people in this community who share my passion and my commitment to helping others, I plan on using the skills I learned to be more client centered. This training was defiantly necessary to push me through my career until the next time we meet again.
6 In Memoriam Michael Starr Beloved Gideon s Promise Faculty Member On July 29, Gideon s Promise lost a leading advocate for our mission, our lawyers, and the people we represent. Mike Starr died just two weeks before he was scheduled to join us in Birmingham for what would have been his ninth annual trip to help welcome a new class of defenders in the South. Mike was an integral part of this mission since we first began developing what is now Gideon s Promise as the Georgia Honors Program in Initially a program designed to recruit, train, and mentor lawyers to help drive the reform effort in Georgia, the Program expanded in 2007 as the Southern Public Defender Training Center, and with Mike s help touched defenders in thirteen states at the time of Mike s death. During this entire period, Mike served as a trainer and mentor to more than 200 lawyers who joined this amazing community. Five days after Mike s death, the Gideon s Promise community held a tribute to Mike in conjunction with our annual banquet to kick off the Summer Institute. Earlier that same day, friends and family of Mike s gathered in Gaithersburg, MD to honor his memory. The Gideon s Promise community was part of that memorial as a message from our President & Founder was read as part of the program. The text of that message can be read here: We were especially honored that the family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Gideon s Promise to help carry on the mission to which Mike devoted so much of his time and talents. With those donations, we created a scholarship fund for members of next year s graduating class to cover a portion of their training expenses if they choose to continue with Gideon s Promise in our Graduate 201 Program. We will award six Core 101 graduates from the Class of 2011 with a Michael Starr scholarship. We are grateful for all Mike contributed to Gideon s Promise and for all of the continued support of friends and family in his memory. Goodbye Anthony Lewis Almost as if he was hanging on to see the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, Anthony Lewis, the masterful storyteller who chronicled the Gideon case in Gideon s Trumpet, died one week after this important milestone on March 25, His work helped the public realize the important role that public defenders play in ensuring equal justice and the power of using narrative to move a nation to care about our greatest challenges. We must continue to build on his legacy by mobilizing a community of people committed to justice to remind the public of the critical role public defenders play in our democracy. Thanks Anthony Lewis! How You Can Help: Host a Gideon s Army Screen Event: Become a Gideon s Promise Ambassador: Quotes from the Class of 2013 : This training has truly strengthened my confidence as an attorney. I have a resource bank that most lawyers will never have an army of 200 plus amazing and hardworking defenders. I have never been so proud to be a part of a group. This training reinforced my passion and confirmed my purpose. I plan to go back armed with an amazing skill set (Tools from this training) and armed with the law. I understand I won t win every battle but it is the fight that matters. I am not alone in this. We are all raising the bar and demanding more from our government for indigent defense.