Seven Georgia death row inmates may be forced to represent themselves at hearings because the state is not required to provide appellate lawyers, says the New York Times. A prisoners’ advocacy group says it cannot help. Georgia is the only state that does not provide prisoners with lawyers after their initial appeals. The state funds a resource center to help inmates in the second phase of their appeals. Director Tom Dunn said his four-person staff was too overloaded to take the seven cases.
Many states provide little aid for representation during phase two, the state habeas corpus petition, in which an inmate can raise legal issues from his or her trial such as prosecutorial misconduct or suppression of exculpatory material. “Georgia is the only state that has just shrugged its shoulders and said if a condemned person doesn’t have a lawyer, it doesn’t matter,” said Stephen B. Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights. Since 1996, Georgia has executed 16 people and set aside the death penalty in 17 appeals. There are 113 people on Georgia’s death row. Russ Willard, a spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said the center’s warnings were part of a strategy to increase funding.