West Law Report

About Public Defender System

Posted in Capital punishment, Public Defense System by mrkooenglish on May 11, 2008

Michael Whiteman, the chairman of the Committee for an Independent Public Defense Commission, wrote to NY Times editor:

To the Editor:

Re “Releases From Death Row Raise Doubts Over Quality of Defense” (front page, May 7):

You don’t have to look to other states for gross violations of the American Bar Association’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System. New York’s failed county-based system for defendants who cannot afford a private lawyer was aptly described as “an ongoing crisis,” underfinanced and poor-performing, in a report to Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye.

And inadequate defense has been identified as a major factor in the plague of wrongful convictions that has seen more inmates in New York freed from murder convictions this decade after DNA-based post-trial investigations established their innocence than in any other state.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is more than a slogan. It is a burden imposed daily on the countless inmates who sit in jail because of their inability to afford an effective defense. It is time for state leaders to embrace Judge Kaye’s recommendations and create an independent public defense commission to begin the process of carrying out a state takeover of financing and operation of our public defense system and remove a stain on our self-professed commitment to equal justice.

Michael Whiteman
Albany, May 7, 2008

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