April 03, 2005

A wonderful day in a one-way world

From Kemplog, and from the land of Indiana Public Defender (fresh off a very persuasive 19-minute "not guilty" jury verdict), comes this postcard from a place where they're just not set up to do jury trials - misdemeanor court:

Maximum caseload - Misdemeanor public defenders must scramble

If most days are grueling, this morning’s two-hour session will be especially hectic. He has 51 new cases, plus 10 from the previous Friday, when court was closed. He will make time for all of them. Thankfully, most of his clients will plead guilty to an assortment of misdemeanor offenses ranging from lifting items from department stores to public drunkenness to possession of marijuana. Only one of (his) clients wants a trial.

Ummm... about that "thankfully..."

Last year, the misdemeanor public defenders were assigned 2,668 cases and disposed of all but 40 of them. The majority of defendants plead out; 12 went to trial....

“That’s outrageous,” said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council. “That’s very excessive.”

The rest of the article is a pretty good balance of day-in-the-life snapshot and policy prescription:

Indiana... should... increase the tab for the counties and help them defray the cost of misdemeanors. By increasing indigent defense, the state will meet its moral obligation to the poor, as well as reward attorneys... with the economic respect they deserve.