Monday, October 05, 2009

Will public defender office reduce Harris County pretrial detention costs?

Two related articles in the Houston Chronicle focus on whether a public defender office would reduce pretrial detention costs for indigent defendants:
The first article raises "questions about whether the current patchwork defense system fails the poor by allowing hundreds of people accused of crimes to languish too long in jail, forcing some to serve sentences prior to conviction or accept pleas regardless of guilt or innocence." It opens with what one hopes is a relatively extreme anecdote:

Brisby Brown spent 17 months jailed in Harris County, serving time for a crime for which he was never convicted, all the while complaining his rights to an adequate defense and a speedy trial were ignored.

Though there was no trial and no judgment, there is a price. Brown is one of thousands of indigent inmates who collectively cost Harris County taxpayers about $24 million each year. In Brown's case, the public paid his jail keep and his lawyers' bills for well over a year before charges of drug possession were abruptly dropped in June.

Since I'd previously written in favor of a public defender office in Harris County, I should point readers to newly minted defense attorney Murray Newman's critique of the idea. The second bulleted Chron story informs us that Judge Michael McSpadden is not a fan, either. He has chosen not to participate in the new public defender office, preferring to appoint attorneys as he's always done.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Murray's response reminds me of the prosecutor's response to the Beyler report in the Willingham case. Lots of BS, topped off with "PD's couldn't get a real job in the real world..." From a former prosecutor who makes most of his living off of appointments, and no longer will if a PD office takes hold!

Give me a break.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Anon 5:40 p.m.,
The way the first wave of a PD's office is structured won't affect my business one bit. I handle first degree cases, primarily. I've never said for one second that I didn't do the vast majority of my business (right now) through appointments.

If you are done attacking the speaker, would you care to address any of the points I made? Or is it just easier to attack the speaker?

Murray

Haiku said...

Reduce bus fare costs?
Buy yourself a fancy new car.
Not an overall savings.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I'd love to. But you don't approve those comments on your own blog. I know, I know, "there's something wrong with Blogger"...

I'm not sure I need say anything more about your comment on the quality of PD's, other than that's what everyone thinks of prosecutors. You're not in some elite group of current/former prosecutors. Quite the opposite, in fact. I

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Yeah, like I said, it's always easier to just attack the speaker.