Poor defendants = Poor defense

A USA Today article posted Aug 29 reports on the nation's public defender (PD) system as "mired in crisis," "a tragedy." In 1963, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that every criminal defendant has a fundamental right to counsel, provided by the government if necessary. However, according to the article, the Supreme Court left methods of funding to state and local governments. Today the overburdened, underfunded PD system threatens the fairness of the justice system. Indigent legal services are currently provided in one of two ways: by salaried lawyers in taxpayer-funded PD offices or by court-appointed and -paid private attorneys. States that cover all or most expenses of local PD programs have fewer problems, but tight budgets require choices between "whether roads are going to be graveled or defendants are going to be defended."


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