Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Et tu Texas? How bad is this?

Check this out (Chronicle, of Houston, "we have a problem" and it's been going on too long):

What happens in the majority of cases with court-appointed counsel looks more like this: During a morning docket call, shackled herds of defendants charged with felony crimes receive a court-appointed attorney who confers with them less than five minutes. The defendants are informed of the plea offer from the prosecutor and told that they have until noon to accept it or face a more punitive recommendation. The attorney knows next to nothing about the facts of the case and has no knowledge of the life of his new client, but tells him he has negotiated the best possible deal. This assembly line process is designed to clear cases from a crowded docket and occurs in the context of the assumption of guilt and is largely controlled by the prosecutor.

It is not a process for the discovery of truth and the doing of justice. Indeed, there is no doubt that the unintended consequences of this process include the conviction of innocent persons.

Money budgeted by counties for court-appointed legal counsel should be diverted to the operation of the public defenders office. The inherently inequitable process in which judges are authorized to appoint legal counsel should be abolished.

and check out related posts here.

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