Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Indigent criminal? Well, good luck, sucka!

Jesus. Even with all the problems surrounding indigent criminal defense in Virginia, where I do indigent defense, and Georgia, where I prosecuted, Louisiana's system seems positively barbaric.
A few facts about Louisiana's criminal justice system that might be helpful in putting the seriousness of this scandal into perspective:

• About 90 percent of criminal defendants in Louisiana are indigent.

• Louisiana only provides post-conviction legal aid in death penalty cases. Everyone else must either hire a lawyer, find a lawyer to handle their case pro bono, or handle the appeal themselves. Obviously, most have no choice but to opt for the latter.

One criminal defense lawyer in Louisiana told me that if you're convicted of murder in Louisiana and you're innocent, you're actually better off getting the death penalty. At least then you'll get a team of lawyers, investigators, and experts to help with your appeal.

Read it all.