Louisiana’s public defense system is in crisis due to a lack of funding for public defenders who are not only undercompensated but also overburdened with heavy caseloads, according to an article yesterday in the
The issues plaguing Louisiana’s public defense system are so severe that they are now threatening the constitutionality of the ‘adequate representation’ the state must provide for indigent defendants.
Norman Lefstein, an indigent defense expert at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law told the
Shreveport Times: “
The kind of representation that is being given is simply far below what the constitution requires and frankly what rules of ethics requires of lawyers.”
writes that local attorneys and legal experts are particularly concerned that if these problems continue, Louisiana will see higher rates of wrongful convictions caused by inadequate defense. Those at the greatest risk of being wrongfully convicted are the accused who cannot afford to hire private attorneys, and who are supposed to be provided the means to a fair trial by the state.
Local attorney Ross Owen touches on the history of wrongful convictions in Louisiana and the recent tragic case of
Innocence Project New Orleans client Glenn Ford
. Owen told the
, “What’s particularly egregious to me is that we’ve, just in this parish, seen Glenn Ford — the person who was on death row, had somebody who was not a criminal defense lawyer appointed to represent him — and here we are decades later doing the exact same thing.”