Attorney and justice seeker Travis Williams lands an HBO documentary

Travis Williams

Travis Williams is not just a defense lawyer; he is what would be considered a general in Gideon’s Army. Who and what is Gideon’s Army? Defense attorneys across America who fight to protect the constitutional rights of American citizens everyday. For free. Each citizen of the United States is given the right to legal council and would not have this right if it were not for Gideon v. Wainwright.

Here, the senior attorney at the Hall County Public Defender’s Office in Gainesville, Ga., and Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University and University of Georgia School of Law graduate discusses why he chose his path and what rights people need to be aware of.

Why would someone consider you a part of Gideon’s Army?

Because I am a public defender, I’ve been a public defender for five years.

Being a public defender, if you had to speak in a room full of African American young men who were thinking of committing a petty crime, what would you say?

Well, obviously, don’t do it! … Everything I would say would be very practical. “This act could ruin your life, police don’t care about you, and the prosecutor and judge will throw you away.”

Even after the age of 21, why is the right to counsel so critical to our country?

It’s the most important thing, if you think about someone who is charged, for a layperson who is approached or arrested. You aren’t prepared to defend yourself against them or negotiate your release and future life or know if something is legal. … That’s the benefit of counsel, being able to ensure that things are done right.

What are the two things you hope people take away from this movie?

… One thing I hope people take away from this movie, if they take nothing else: Just because I am a public defender doesn’t mean I can’t do anything else. I get job offers all the time and I turn them down. I truly love what I do. I think people think you’re doing what we do as a last resort and I want to get rid of that stigma. … I hope people leave with the prevailing thought that with me they are receiving a quality defense.

Williams is truly deserving of a medal of honor. Hopefully when audiences finish watching “Gideon’s Army” they’ll want to join the fight in a way that makes sense to them and their lifestyle. Mentoring, donating, and educating are some of the ways to combat the ignorance that lands people in the jail system. Be sure to watch “Gideon’s Army” on July 1 on HBO.

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