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Behind the Courthouse Door

A pilot program in Wisconsin is the first in the country to review county courts statewide and measure how they perform under the strain of large caseloads. The study also tracked the impact of deferred sentencing, how long cases take to get through the courts, how judges set bail, and how quickly public defenders are assigned to low-income defendants. The results were released Monday at the National Forum on Criminal Justice, an annual meeting sponsored by the National Criminal Justice […]

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Indigent Defense Spending Stalled

State government spending on indigent defense steadily dropped from 2008 through 2012, according to a new report by Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report provides a state-by-state breakdown of indigent defense expenditures and legislation, between 2008 and 2012. During that time period, state government indigent defense expenditures decreased at an average rate of 1.1 percent per year. In 2012, state governments spent $2.2 billion nationally on indigent defense, down from its height of $2.4 billion. But researchers note that the […]

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Public Defender Leaders Learn The Latest In Forensic Science

Forensic science has transformed the criminal justice system, but lawyers and judges have struggled to keep up with developments, says the National Law Journal. A weeklong program for public defenders was designed to close that knowledge gap. Some 120 public defenders gathered in New York City this week for the first-of-its kind Forensic College, co-sponsored by Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). “Training lawyers in the latest in forensic […]

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MA Prosecutors, Public Defenders Among “Working Poor,” Holding Two Jobs

Massachusetts must increase salaries for public defenders and prosecutors, some of whom qualify as the working poor, to assure that the rights of the innocent are protected and the guilty are justly imprisoned, says a Massachusetts Bar Association study reported by the Boston Globe. Massachusetts ranks last nationally in salaries paid to public defenders through the Committee for Public Counsel Services and county prosecutors often are the lowest-paid person in a courtroom, finishing behind custodial workers. The study was conducted […]

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james doyle

The Eyewitness Con Game: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

A current debate over the handling of eyewitness evidence illuminates the influence that a “downstream” inspection screen (here, the prosecutors) can exercise over “upstream” practices (here, police evidence evaluation).

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Why Some Innocent Defendants Plead Guilty–And Consequences They Face

A criminal conviction even for a minor offense can stigmatize defendants for the rest of their lives, Robin Steinberg of Bronx Defenders tells NPR. “Sometimes when you’re facing the … decision about ‘do I plead guilty and go home or do I stay in the system?’, that’s hard to think about what the impacts are down the road,” she says. “Traditional public defender models really focus exclusively on the criminal cases, but we need to really define what we do […]

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Wrongful Convictions: Can Prosecutors Reform Themselves?

In October 2003, a star college football player named Mark Fisher was found shot dead on a leafy, residential Brooklyn, NY street. The crime attracted intense media coverage and stymied investigators for months. Indeed, according to a 2005 New York Daily News article, it wasn't until an “elite team” was set up to investigate the killing, headed by then Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes' controversial top deputy, Michael Vecchione— that prosecutors were able to break what was termed the “wall […]

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How Poor Is ‘Too Poor’ to Hire a Lawyer?

Nearly one-third of states require potential indigent defendants to pay application fees when requesting counsel, and almost every state requires defendants to either reimburse the state or make a contribution for representation, according to a new report from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). Researchers examined how states decide who is “too poor” to hire a lawyer, as well as potential roadblocks in place that might deter indigent defendants from requesting counsel. Sixteen states require preliminary administrative fees, […]

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Delaware’s Indigent Defense Fails ‘The Vast Majority’

Three years ago, Attorney General Eric Holder called the American Bar Association's (ABA) “Ten Principles” the “basic building blocks of a well-functioning public defense system. In Delaware, “both the primary and conflict indigent defense systems … fail the vast majority of the ABA Ten Principles,” according to a new study by the non-profit Sixth Amendment Center. The 216-page report explores glaring weaknesses in the state's public defender system, with a focus on the pretrial stage. Defendants are initially advised of […]

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Study Shows MO Public Defenders Lack Time To Prepare Adequately

In Missouri, where public defenders say they are especially burdened, legal experts hope that an exhaustive new analysis of workloads and needs sponsored by the American Bar Association will strengthen their long battle for change, reports the New York Times. Chronically understaffed, and reeling from caseloads several times larger than those of private lawyers, public defenders in many parts of the U.S. have started trying to force legislators to respond. Defender agencies in Missouri and Miami have won, in state […]