Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Justice System Blues

Republicans in Georgia are trying to model their legal system after the one we have here in New Orleans. As in: they don't want theirs to work.

In an effort to cut the budget, some GOP legislators want to stop paying those pesky attorneys who work for the state to defend folks accused of crime. These legislators are operating on the Guantanamo Theory of Criminal Justice, and seem to think due process for folks accused of crime is negotiable. They see a well funded public defender system as the fantastic "too helpful to criminals" rather than reality-based "forces competence in prosecution," "ensures due process," and "inspires confidence in the justice system."

I know it might be counterintuitive, but whenever a killer walks free, you don't blame the defense attorney - you blame law enforcement, the prosecutor or the state. Most states that have abandoned the death penalty haven't done so because of squishy human sensibilities, they've done so because they don't trust their states to adequately defend indigents accused of crimes.

In effect: the more competent and robust your public defenders programs are, the healthier your criminal justice system is. Failing that, people lose their faith in the system, and down the road you have out-of-control crime like Detroit, New Orleans or Chicago.

As a staunch supporter of the death penalty, I want elite squads of defense attorneys defending those accused of death penalty crimes. That way, the law enforcement has to behave flawlessly, the prosecution has to cross every "t" and dot every "i." We can have a great deal of faith that every avenue to maintain innocence and mitigate intent has been explored, and that due process has been adhered to with fervor. That way, we can throw the switch without guilt.

But, back in Atlanta, Republicans don't see it that way. They'd prefer to underfund the system and have every case overturned on appeal, possibly involving the Feds and opening themselves up to civil rights violations. I think that's part of the plan, though. At least they'll get to blame the judicial branch when things start going wrong. The GOP always makes money when judges do unpopular things.


1 comment:

patsbrother said...

What's more amusing is trying to reduce what money the State does pay towards public defense due to budget downturns and less discretionary state revenue...when the public defender system is paid for out of court fees each time someone files a case...which is not a part of the discretionary state revenue...