March 23, 2008

ID: human costs of caseload cost-cutting

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

'Lowest rung on the ladder'

Michelle Mellinthin was no angel. Charged with grand theft, meth possession and forging a bank card, her public defender in Canyon County didn't waste time finding out if she was actually guilty of all those charges, the Idaho Supreme Court later determined. So when a county prosecutor offered an early plea bargain, the public defender leaped at it. Her attorney refused to wait for the state lab to finish testing a white crystal substance found in her possession. Had he waited, he would have learned the substance was not meth.

A judge ruled that it was too late and let the guilty plea stand. After that, the same public defender and a second one each failed to help her file a direct appeal. Mellinthin went to prison. "My guess is that Ms. Mellinthin just gave up," said State Deputy Appellate Public Defender Sara Thomas. In 2002, Thomas appealed Mellinthin's case on grounds that her public defenders had provided an ineffective defense. And she won.

Mellinthin's case was far from the first or only time a busy county public defender blew a case, citing too little time and resources. A wide disparity exists between the time and resources some Idaho county public defenders have compared with others. But until recently, the state wasn't paying much attention...

1 Comment:

Jen said...

"..the public defender leapt at it."

Question: Was this over the objection of the client? Did the attorney brow beat the client into taking it? If my client says, "Hey, it wasn't meth or it wasn't me" they sit until indicted. Honestly, it's more work to convince my clients to take a plea they don't want to take.