News 06.13.08

Public defense crisis spreads across the nation

Budget cuts are threatening public defense systems in Kentucky, Minnesota, Florida and Atlanta – prompting serious concerns that thousands of poor defendants could go without legal representation. Overburdened and underfunded indigent defense can lead to wrongful convictions of poor defendants who can’t afford a lawyer. The Innocence Project has seen this problem in several wrongful convictions already overturned by DNA evidence, and there are countless innocent people still in prison today because they didn’t have adequate representation. An ABC News report today examines severe shortages in four states:

The cuts leave states scrambling to find a solution to a constitutional dilemma: The Sixth Amendment requires the government to either provide poor defendants with lawyers or release them.

"It is an impending legal crisis in our state," Joseph Lambert, the chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, told ABC News. "Without adequate defense counsel, the public simply cannot be confident that persons are not being wrongfully convicted of crimes," Lambert said.


Read the full story

. (ABC News, 06/13/08)



Read Wednesday’s Innocence Blog post on the anticipate closure of an Atlanta public defenders’ office

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Read about wrongful convictions caused in part by bad lawyering and later overturned by DNA testing

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