For the whole newspaper story, go to:
NACDL, the national organization for those who defend the indigent, has also weighed in. Their press release is located at:
The judge in the case accused the public defender of ?impeding justice.? An unprepared defense and undo haste cause far more injustice than minor delays and offend the fundamental guarantees that are the birthright of every American.
It is a fundamental right of every person accused to be represented in a criminal trial by a competent counsel and that requires that counsel conduct an investigation, interview witnesses and understand the case. The framers of the Constitution understood this when they guaranteed to us in the Bill of Rights the right ?to have the assistance of counsel? when accused of a crime. Nearly fifty years ago, in Gideon v Wainwright, the Supreme Court explained that the assistance of counsel is ?one of the safeguards of the Sixth Amendment deemed necessary to insure fundamental human rights of life and liberty. The Sixth Amendment stands as a constant admonition that if the constitutional safeguards it provides be lost, justice will not ?still be done.? And that without it, ?though he be not guilty, [an accused] faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence.?
For the jury or judge to find the truth at trial, the defense must understand the case and be prepared. Defense lawyers must have investigated, talked to the witnesses, researched the law, and, frequently, consulted experts. Indeed, defense attorneys are required to do these things by a long line of U.S. Supreme Court precedent and the ethical rules that govern lawyers in every state in the Union.
It is not easy, or well paid, to stand up for justice on behalf of those who are accused of crimes, deprived of their children or their parents, or facing involuntary commitment. But without a vigorous indigent defense bar, constitutional protections mean little.
I will follow up and report as this situation develops.