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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Happens When the Defense is Broke?

ATLANTA—The state public defender's office voted Thursday to defy a judge's order to continue to provide funding for the legal fees and expenses of the man accused of killing four people in a 2005 rampage.

After meeting in private, the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council agreed to tell Superior Court Judge Hilton Fuller at a contempt hearing that had been set for Monday that it can't pay the costs and carry out its duty in roughly 80 other capital cases in the state.

The council said it would file court papers to that effect under seal. The members declined to comment further.

A few hours later, Fuller voluntarily recused himself from overseeing the hearing, which he postponed. Fuller will still preside over the rest of the case, but said it would be more appropriate if another judge hears the contempt issue.

A west Georgia judge, A. Quillian Baldwin Jr. of LaGrange, will assign a new judge to handle the contempt hearing because all Fulton County Superior Court judges have recused themselves from the entire case. A new date for the hearing was not immediately set.

The council's move follows Fuller's decision Wednesday to indefinitely suspend jury selection in Brian Nichols' state murder trial.

Fuller suspended the trial after Nichols' lawyers demanded that individual questioning of prospective jurors, which started Monday, stop immediately until they receive money to pay their fees and expenses.

The state public defender's office has said that because of the amount of money already spent on Nichols' defense so far—$1.8 million as of the end of June—there isn't enough money for other cases. As a result, it cut off funding to Nichols' defense on July 1.

The Legislature has refused to step in. Nichols' defense did get one piece of good news late Wednesday when Fulton County said it would comply with an order to pay the legal fees of one of Nichols' four attorneys. That, alone, however, won't solve all of the defense concerns.

Fuller did not say when jury selection would resume. He also indicated that he would decide later whether to release the 1,100 prospective jurors in the current pool from duty and create a new one.

Nichols' lawyers have said they are unprepared to go forward. Fuller has warned that the case may never be tried without adequate defense funding.

The Denver Post

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Colorado, the public defender assigned to my friend's case did not show up after the first hearing. She was running for judge in Jefferson County 02CR2626 and got the seat, but did not show up for the next 5 months. Other PD's who happened to be in the court had to take the case at the last moment. I complained to the PD office, and of course they did not find any wrong doing or lack of effort. He got thrown into prison for 4 years instead of getting the drug rehab that she promised, when he plea bargained, for his first offense as a 19 year old. Gov Owens stopped all funding for drug rehab. This justice system only thinks about their own pockets.