Friday, August 22, 2014

Crappy indigent defense causes false convictions

The San Antonio Current had a fine article recently titled "254 ways to defend poor people in Texas" critiquing Texas' county-by-county indigent defense system and contrasting it with Colorado's statewide public defender office based on the American Bar Association's “10 Principals of a Public Defense Delivery System.”

The piece includes this quote from my boss Jeff Blackburn at the Innocence Project of Texas: “The real cause of unlawful convictions in Texas is indigent defense. ... I have never handled an innocence case in which a good lawyer did a good job at trial. Virtually all of [those defendants] have had court-appointed lawyers.” Wrote reporter Callie Enlow, "This has made Blackburn deeply cynical about what he calls (in his typical colorful language) 'a pretty goddamned awful' indigent defense system in Texas." He and Scott Ehlers from the Harris County Public Defender's Office will release a report soon comparing Texas' and Colorado's systems; the Current article is based in large part on a draft shared with the reporter. Check it out.

MORE: Scott Greenfield concurs with Blackburn's harsh assessment in a blog post at Simple Justice.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, Medicaid doctors aren't a helluva lot better. You get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

Public defenders - here's some more clowns.

Anonymous said...

Crappy indigent defense causes false convictions... AND undermines any real confidence of justice overall. Reform about how defense is compensated and overseen is necessary for even the semblance of a system which deserves any confidence.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, I want to celebrate the revelation and pat your boss on the back but can't bring myself to that level while knowing he's either: full of shit, or scared to tell the whole truth. I invite him to reconsider this by calling bullshit on the Rigged system as a whole.

Anyone can blame anyone they wish to but in reality, it takes a Team effort to allow a false arrest to morph into a Goddamned wrongful conviction. The only way to know when someone is skirting the truth is to know the truth.

I found out the truth the hard way folks. After I witnessed hundreds of humans with court appointed lawyers being herded into Harris County, courts and leaving on the chain with Indictments having Not Guilty crossed out and replaced with nolo contendere, I begged my family to hire one to take it to a jury trial. In a 'Rigged' system, that didn't matter one damn bit due to everyone with hired attorneys being advised to stop jury trials and "Take the plea", Guilty or Not. The wealthy got what they could afford as those of us working poor, got sold-out at lunch recess. You have to see this shit with your own eyes to know it was not only happening, it was being condoned by everyone.

Mr. Blackburn is a good guy & a hero to many (me included) but just can't seem to stop Cherry Picking. He knows damn well that people on probation that are tricked into taking the plea are not going to be exhausting any appeals, therefore, allowing the majority of the 97% which are non-DNA related to 'not' qualify for his project's version of innocence assistance.

Simply popping up every couple of years with statements revealing the updated 'Cause' is weak when devoid of the entire truth. One year its bad eyewitness description discrepancies and now it's a certain group of lawyers.

When he failed to call Bullshit on the entire process, he sided with the hired sell-outs as being the trust worthy ones, while allowing: the bad cop, the rogue ADA & the robed enablers free passes. He’d know this by now if he had chosen to consider righting all wrongs vs. just those with DNA & Death Row links.

Let me know when he chooses to critique the entire process and calls Bullshit on the system being 'Rigged'. Until then, I want to believe but can't due to - knowing the truth. That being, it takes a Team effort. Thanks.

R. Walton Weaver said...

It is typical of those in the business of making sound bytes to oversimplify the problem.

To blame the court-appointed lawyer for the problems of a wrongful conviction forgets that:

a cop arrested the wrong person;
a District Attorney accepted the charge on a wrong person;
a Grand Jury believed the wrong person did it; and
a trial jury found the wrong person guilty.

The court appointed attorney was the only person saying the defendant is not guilty, yet, the wrongful conviction is the court appointed attorney's fault?

If one really wants to solve the problem, I think a little investigation, and blame, can be found a little further upstream.