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50 Years After Key Case, Problems Defending The Poor Persist

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The 50 Year Anniversary of a defendant's constitutional right to counsel, begs the question.. has Gideon fulfilled its goals, do the indigent defendants get less justice than those who can afford to hire a lawyer? A half-century after Gideon v. Wainwright, many lawyers say the system for providing defense attorneys for the poor is in crisis.



"It is a vital constitutional right," Lefstein says. "It distinguishes us as a country. I happen to believe that the quality of justice in our courts says a lot about the kind of society we are."








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NOT THE LAWYERS BUT THE Same old Senators we have come to know and not Love.


"Jones and his Senate colleagues concluded that Michigan taxpayers can't afford to meet the standards justices established in Gideon."



Kilpatrick had the good luck to be prosecuted in federal court. But state courts have been less conscientious about enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court's 50-year-old mandate. And few states have been more negligent than Michigan, where a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder reported just last year that most of the state's counties were still failing to meet their legal obligation to indigent defendants.


"The constitutional standard has been clear since Gideon in 1963," observes Mason District Judge Tom Boyd, who served on the governor's Indigent Defense Advisory Commission. "But Michigan has never gotten around to doing it."


Last fall, at the urging of Boyd and his colleagues, the Republican-led state House of Representatives adopted legislation that would have bolstered funding for indigent defense and brought Michigan into compliance with Gideon. (On a per-capita basis, Michigan currently spends just half the national average states set aside for indigent defense.)


But state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and has made a career of anti-crime posturing, had little enthusiasm for the House legislation, and it died without ever coming to a vote in the Senate.


Jones and his Senate colleagues concluded that Michigan taxpayers can't afford to meet the standards justices established in Gideon.


They won't face criminal charges for their craven decision, but make no mistake: The indifference they've displayed for constitutional rights of Michigan's indigent defendants is every bit as indefensible as Kilpatrick's arrogant crimes.


There's little doubt that assuring competent legal counsel for everyone accused of a serious crime will cost more than Michigan is paying now. But the evidence is overwhelming that states that scrimp on indigent defense end up incarcerating a disproportionate number of innocents.




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IMO, court appointed attorneys are the funnel that help fill the system with people who are innocent or facing trumped up charges.


They can mislead and provide an defendant with an uneasy feeling, making them more likely to take a deal or plead guilty. Its easier and more beneficial for a CAA and his constituents; the prosecutor, Judge and the state, if the defendant just pleads guilty or takes a deal, even if he's not guilty.


I have personally seen a CAA encourage a defendant to plead guilty two felony drug possession charges when there was literally no drugs recovered, (he had to know this) IT was like a movie the defendant asked the caa "what drugs they didn't take any drugs out of my home" the caa lifts the first page on the file, and without time to read anything says, "oh this case is weak let me go talk to the prosecutor" minutes later the charges were dismissed!

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sad state of affairs.... who is to blame? the lawyers and their high hourly costs?

the quality of an attorney is based on time, attention to detail, dedication, intelligence and gameness.. they are like anything else you can go for a cheap one, or you can pay more and have more work done for you. Most people are barely getting by and cant afford any additional expenses, the justice system knows this and they take advantage.
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