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A Gideon Moment
By David Tarrell
When I met Alvin in the waiting room of the public defender’s
office, I guessed he was about 70 years old. He asked me if his wife
could come with us. A tired-looking woman, whom Alvin introduced as
Dora, followed us to my office to talk about his shoplifting charge. I
asked Alvin about his background and found that he was in his early 80s
and had been married for 60 years. Alvin and Dora had raised three boys.
He seemed an unlikely shoplifter. His record was clean with the
exception of a shoplifting charge that been dismissed some 15 years
earlier. I told Alvin that the shoplifting charge carried up to 90 days
in jail, but that he was very unlikely to have to go there, no matter
what happened, given his clean record and age. Dora’s face tightened
when I said “jail” but I calmed them down by explaining the rights that
Alvin had in court, that these were his rights, and that he could have a
trial if he wanted one.
Alvin said, “I want a trial and I want to ta
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