Two weeks ago, the director of the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office
, saying that the office could not adequately represent clients facing the death penalty with the budget provided by the state. And in a column in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ACLU death penalty stategist Christopher Hill argues that Georgia’s problems are not unique. Public defenders offices are underfunded nationwide, and those charged with capital cases are no better off.
Defendants are fighting for their lives during capital trials. The Constitution guarantees effective lawyers and a fair trial — that means lawyers with the time, resources and skill to properly represent them. It also means expert assistance, access to technology and investigators. All of this costs money. As things now stand, adequate resources are sorely lacking in many parts of the country. As a result, the death penalty is too often reserved not for the "worst" offenders, but for those defendants with the worst lawyers.
Read the full column here
. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 09/10/07)
Bad and overburdened lawyers are a major cause of wrongful conviction, in capital and non-capital cases. Hill mentions cases in which attorneys slept through trials, drank four martinis at lunch, and failed to offer evidence of innocence.
Read more about how bad lawyers and underfunded public defense offices can lead to wrongful convictions
More recent coverage of public defense shortages nationwide: